Personal protective equipment is part of any job where hazardous energies or materials are in use. For radiology techs, of course, personal protective equipment means a combination of equipment, both that which shields the technician from ionizing radiation and equipment which provides a gauge to let the technician know when they have received too much radiation.
The shielding integrity of a good pair of lead-lined gloves has to be tested at least once per year, and testing more often is certainly not a bad idea. The gloves can provide a good amount of protection against scatter radiation and, of course, scatter radiation can be an exposure hazard, even if you’re not directly in the path of the radiation being used for the x-ray.
The way that x-ray gloves insulate the hands from exposure to radiation does alter depending upon where the hands are located when a fluoroscopic machine is in use.
RADIATION PROTECTION GLOVES AND SAFETY
Personal protective equipment allows people to work in potentially dangerous jobs with an acceptable degree of safety. One of the problems that can sometimes arise, however, is when people expect too much of the gloves and other protective equipment that they use.
Over-reliance on personal protective equipment can end up creating a false sense of security, which can be exceptionally dangerous when one is dealing with energy as powerful as ionizing radiation.
Between gaining a lot of experience as an x-ray technician and getting accustomed to the idea of working around radiation, it’s easy to become too comfortable. Leaded gloves can provide anywhere between 15 to 30% or more of reduction in exposure to scatter radiation. The danger comes when the hands are directly in the path of the beam.
For example, a fluoroscope machine will increase the kilovoltage automatically when something (such as a gloved hand) is blocking the beam. This means that the radiation levels go up, for both the x-ray technician and the patient.
While leaded gloves can make it safer for x-ray technicians to do their jobs, it’s important to keep these aspects of the behaviors of radiation and the equipment used with it in mind. If these considerations aren’t kept in mind, the situation may turn into one were personal protective equipment is being relied on so much and used in an improper way that the hazard is actually being increased, in certain regards, rather than reduced, as it should be.
CHOOSING LEADED GLOVES
X-ray gloves are available in very agile designs, such as surgical versions (like our Attenuator-X gloves and other radiation resistant surgical gloves). For people who have to do the precise work involved in taking x-rays, these may be suitable solutions.
Sleeves (such as these lead sleeves) are also available, eliminating the coverage for the hand, but providing an excellent means of protecting the body from radiation.Lead mittens are also available, and these can be excellent for workers who don’t need a great degree of articulation for specific task.
Lead free x-ray gloves are also available, reducing weight. With any of these options, however, it’s important to make certain, as is the case with all protective equipment, that its limitations are understood and that there may be additional considerations that need to be taken into account with usage.
Leaded gloves, when used correctly, can greatly increase the level of safety that a worker in any field enjoys during the course of their workday. However, all personal protective equipment needs to be understood. X-ray technicians need to understand which hazards the protective equipment protects them from and which hazards it can inadvertently create if used incorrectly. Understanding this information enables technicians to have the most predictable and safest work environment possible, and to make their work environment safer for patients, as well.