United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Health Physics Questions and Answers - Question 386

Question 386: In evaluating whether to require the use of respirators to limit intakes, it is found that wearing a respirator will likely increase the total effective dose equivalent (TEDE). However, the workers request that they be allowed to wear respirators to limit intakes, despite the results of the evaluation. With regard to NRC regulation, what discretion may the licensee exercise in this circumstance?

Answer: 10 CFR 20.1702 provides for the use of respirators consistent with maintaining the TEDE as low as is reasonably achievable. Assuming that the licensee has provided appropriate training to the workers in question, the licensee may exercise discretion on a case-by-case basis in determining whether to grant approval to a worker's request for using a respirator when the TEDE-ALARA determination dictates that respiratory protection not be used. The NRC staff realizes that the significant "culture shift" / "paradigm shift" (i.e., changing from the traditional operational philosophy of not allowing any worker intakes to one of allowing some intakes when this is consistent with the goal of maintaining the TEDE ALARA) may not take place quickly. Furthermore, acceptance of this change will certainly be difficult for some individuals. Therefore, the NRC staff realizes that during this transition period licensees will need reasonable flexibility to allow for individual needs and problems in making this shift. However, the staff expects that over time the transition to ALARA-TEDE will be made and this worker acceptance problem will become an exceptional occurrence. In the meantime, when assigning a respirator to the requesting worker, the licensee should make every reasonable effort to provide the worker with a respirator that minimizes the loss of worker efficiency. Note: The NRC staff is aware of existing state OSHA regulations that require an employer to provide a worker with a respirator upon request; compliance with such state regulations is acceptable to the NRC staff. See the answer to the related Question 387.

(Reference: 10 CFR 20.1702, 10 CFR 20.1703)

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Wednesday, October 07, 2015