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A radiation safety officer is the primary point person for overseeing and ensuring safe use and handling of radiation devices. The education, knowledge and skills needed to become an RSO depend on the workplace and the specific radiation devices on hand. However, rules and regulations of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission provide guidance for persons seeking to serve in a radiation safety officer role. Of course, understanding radiation principles and safe management of radiation devices is paramount.
Get a Handle on RSO Job Duties
A good first step to becoming an RSO is to gain an understanding of typical duties and responsibilities. A primary duty is preparing a workplace-specific comprehensive radiation protection plan. This requires identifying radiation equipment in the workplace and determining facility licensing requirements for each device. The job also requires monitoring and leak detection to keep employees safe. These duties require education and expertise in safe use, storage and handling of radiation devices and the regulations that govern these activities.
Get Education Credentials
You can satisfy education requirements with a structured program, such as a degree program in physics, science or engineering. Radiation safety officers are approved to serve in the role based on education requirements mandated by federal or state agencies that have licensing responsibilities. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, persons serving in an RSO role must have sufficient knowledge to function independently in the job.
Meet Training and Experience Requirements
In addition to education, training and one or more years of supervised work experience are required to become a radiation safety officer. Suitable training programs feature a minimum of 200 classroom and laboratory hours covering topics such as radiation physics, dosimetry and radioactivity instrumentation and measurement. Suitable work experience includes shipping and receiving of radioactive material, performing instrumentation operational checks, securing and controlling radioactive material and use of emergency procedures related to radioactive materials. This work would be performed under the watchful eye of a qualified radiation safety officer.
Start the Job Hunt
Many different employers use radiation devices, including hospitals and medical facilities, manufacturing and industrial facilities, colleges and universities and government agencies. Your path to employment depends on the industry, the amount of responsibility desired and your skills. For example, some industrial or manufacturing companies might have only one or two radiation devices for measuring process parameters such as product density. Radiation safety responsibilities for these companies may be on a smaller scale compared to medical facilities. Start your job hunt by matching your skills and career goals with available job openings.
Meet License Requirements
Once you become a radiation safety officer, the first order of business is to revise your company’s radiation license. Companies with radiation devices register the devices and receive a license from their state nuclear regulatory commission. Licenses specify radiation device management conditions and require the designation of a qualified radiation safety officer. You must make a request to update the license with your name and qualifications.
- Health Physics Society: Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) Qualifications
- United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Training for Radiation Safety Officer
- American Portable Nuclear Gauge Association: RSO Responsibilities
- Health Physics Society: Radiation Basics
- Ohio Department of Health: Radiation Safety Officer Training and Experience and Preceptor Attestation
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: Common Industrial Devices and Other Uses of Radioactive Sources
- U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission: General Administrative Requirements
Deb Dupree has been an active writer throughout her career in the corporate world and in public service since 1982. She has written numerous corporate and educational documents including project reports, procedures and employee training programs. She has a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the University of Tennessee.