Radiation protection

Where practices are carried out in an undertaking in which radiation sources may cause increased exposure of workers to radiation, the health of such persons must be protected as far as possible. Examples of radiation sources are equipment which generate ionising radiation, such as X-ray devices, on the one hand, and radioactive substances which emit ionising radiation on the other.

In order to protect the health of these persons as far as possible, there are legal regulations, compliance with which is primarily the responsibility of the companies concerned. The basic principles of these regulations are that the use of ionising radiation must be justified in all cases and that radiation exposure for humans and the environment must be kept as low as reasonably possible. An application is justified if the possible benefits outweigh the disadvantages and risks.

On the basis of an EU directive, the entire radiation protection legislation has been revised. These legal requirements entered into force in the year 2020.

In the Strahlenschutzgesetz (Radiation Protection Act – StrSchG) from 2020, the distinction between the use of artificial radiation sources ("handling radiation sources") and activities in which natural radiation sources in work processes can lead to increased radiation exposure ("working with radiation sources") has been dropped. Instead of the term "handling" or "working", the StrSchG now uses the term "practice".

The term "practice" in radiation protection law is very broadly defined. In particular, practices are to be regarded as:

  • The operation of radiation generators and
  • The manufacture, production, processing, handling, disposal, use, storage and transport of radioactive materials, whether they contain artificial or natural radioactive substances

However, the term practices does not include activities that cause exposure to radon or cosmic radiation.

In most cases, practices require a licence. Only practices that do not pose a health hazard are exempt from the licensing requirement. In such cases, however, the practice must usually be notified to the authorities.

Depending on the type and hazard potential of the intended practice, radiation protection law provides for different licensing procedures (one-step or two-step, see chapter "Activities involving radiation sources subject to authorisation"). In addition, there is the possibility of device-related approvals for devices (types) that are used in large quantities (see chapter "Type approvals").

In the notice of decision granting the licence, the authority sets out specific requirements and conditions which the company must fulfil, in addition to the requirements of radiation protection law. An important health protection measure is the classification by the authority of those workers who could be exposed to increased radiation as exposed workers. A distinction is made here between Category A (higher risk potential) and Category B (lower risk potential) workers. This classification means that the company must arrange for special protection and monitoring measures for these persons. Examples are the wearing of a personal dosimeter, periodic briefings, written work instructions and, in the case of Category A classification, an additional annual medical examination. 

Certain practices within the scope of the licence require separate approval by the radiation protection authority. These include, among others:

In order to enable the radiation protection authority to control the proper fulfilment of the requirements, the licence holder has to fulfil a number of notification obligations to the authorities or the central radiation protection registers. In addition, the authority is to carry out periodic on-site inspections at all companies that are subject to official controls.

There are some specific provisions for the protection of workers and the general public in the case of natural radiation sources:

Please note

The main legal requirements for practicess involving radiation sources and for the protection of flying personnel are laid down in the Strahlenschutzgesetz (Radiation Protection Act – StrSchG) and the Allgemeine Strahlenschutzverordnung (General Radiation Protection Ordinance – AllgStrSchV). For medical applications, the provisions of the Medizinische Strahlenschutzverordnung (Medical Radiation Protection Ordinance – MedStrSchV) must also be observed.

In addition to the StrSchG,  the Radonschutzverordnung (Radon Protection Ordinance – RnV) is particularly relevant for radon protection.

Further information

Legal bases

Last update: 1 January 2024

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