Date updated: Friday 11th August 2023

What is radon?

Colourless and odourless, radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that seeps out of the ground. It is caused by the decay of very small amounts of uranium that are present in all rocks, however, some types of rock have higher levels than others. For this reason, depending on the composition of the ground, UK radon levels vary from place to place. For example, Bath and Bristol have relatively high radon levels and are, therefore, radon affected areas, whereas cities in the east of England, such as Norwich, have very low levels and radon is unlikely to affect the health of residents.

While outdoor radon levels are almost negligible, the gas can seep into and accumulate inside buildings, resulting in higher and potentially harmful concentrations. Over-exposure to radon can cause health issues, and therefore, if a school or business is operating in a radon affected area, it has a duty to ensure that the indoor levels are “safe”.

Managing risk from radon

Employers in a radon affected area, employers, including businesses and schools, must include radon measurements in their risk assessments. Higher radon concentrations are more likely to occur in ground floor and basement areas, as digging into soil can cause the gas to leak out.

To make radon guidance clearer and promote safer working and learning environments, the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 were introduced. They state that, where radon is present above the average annual level of 300 Bq/m3, employers are required to take action to restrict resulting exposures.

How should schools and businesses mitigate radon levels?

It is important for all employers to note that the penalty for not carrying out the appropriate radon tests and mitigations, could be a substantial fine.

If a risk assessment identifies that indoor radon levels are too high (above the average annual level of 300 Bq/m3), remedial action is necessary. The following mitigations are recommended:

  • Install a meter for the continual measurement of radon levels and check it regularly;
  • Improve ventilation, both under floor and indoor;
  • Where there is contact with the ground, seal large gaps in floors and walls;
  • Identify regularly occupied areas (e.g. classrooms, offices, canteens, bedrooms, living areas, etc.) and, where possible, implement positive ventilation, as well as installation of radon sumps and extraction pipework.

You can find out more about which areas of the UK are radon affected, here.

For more information on UK radon regulations, visit this page.

If you would like advice on what radon mitigation steps you should take, please contact Andrew Banks.