Security gadgets using X-ray technology imported to Kenya to undergo mandatory audit

Friday, December 8th, 2023 13:59 | By
X-ray security machine
X-ray security machines. PHOTO/

There will be a mandatory audit of all security equipment using X-ray or electromagnetic technology to proactively address potential radiation risks.

The Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority (KNRA) and the Private Security Regulatory Authority (PSRA) have expressed fears that most of the screening equipment have never been subjected to testing, calibration or routine service and this presents a conceivable health and safety risk for the general public as they interact with the equipment.

“Recognizing the widespread use of metal detectors and baggage scanners by private security personnel at airports, train stations, and various checkpoints nationwide, KNRA acknowledges the need to proactively address potential radiation risks,” KNRA Director General James Keter said.

PSRA Director General Fazul Mohammed also warned that the risk is magnified with regard to private security officers who work on 12-hour shifts, operating the X-ray-powered security equipment.

PSRA and KNRA have jointly developed Radiation Exposure and Safety Protocols with a view to not only ensuring the health and safety of the private security officers who are the primary users of these equipment but to also avert associated health risks associated with prolonged radiation exposure to the general public.

Fazul said as an immediate measure intended to safeguard the safety and health concerns of the general public and particularly the private security officers, they shall jointly conduct a mandatory audit of all security equipment using X-ray and/or electromagnetic technology to ensure compliance.

Most buildings have installed the machines and armed their security guards with magnetic gadgets as part of efforts to stop various crimes including terrorism and smuggling of prohibited equipment.

These include airports, security installations, offices and other private premises.

Fazul said the walk-through metal detectors and luggage scanners employ X-ray technology to generate detailed images of the contents in the bag, providing a transparent view of the same.

“X-rays are therefore a variant of ionizing radiation with carcinogenic characteristics, recognized for their ability to potentially damage living tissue and cause cancer. Even minimal X-ray radiation exposure, if consistent, can have health implications over time,” he said.

In a memo to the private security service providers, all users of the private security equipment and the general public, PSRA has directed that there is need to proactively address potential radiation risks, safety and health of the public, as well as that of personnel operating the machines and gadgets.

According to Fazul, there is widespread use of handheld metal detectors, walk-through metal detectors, and luggage scanners by private security personnel.

“The Authority acknowledges the need to proactively address potential radiation risks, safety and health of the public, as well as that of personnel operating the machines and gadgets,” Fazul said.

The law mandates the PSRA to regulate the use of security equipment by private security service providers in rendering private security services, which includes a comprehensive radiation risk assessment and other measures to mitigate the prolonged radiation risk exposure to the public.

The guidelines cater for both the general populace and those in the private security profession who are exposed to prolonged radiation.

The design and operations of x-ray metal scanners must take into consideration these standards in order to operate safely within the defined allowable limits, he said.

Among others as a requirement, all walk-through metal detectors and luggage scanners shall be required to undergo mandatory calibration and inspection after every six months by personnel licensed by the KNRA and PSRA.

The inspection and calibration will determine if the security screening equipment is operational, maintained well, can detect any deviations or deterioration in operational parameters, and comes with provisions for necessary remedial measures before it results in safety security risks and a health hazard to the population and security operators.

“The equipment that shall have undergone satisfactory calibration and inspection by the two government agencies and found to be in good, working condition, shall be issued with a safety compliance certificate, which shall be displayed prominently on the equipment in use at the time,” he said.

He added regular inspection and calibration shall ensure these machines operate within safety guidelines.

These periodic and regular audits provide dual benefits of safeguarding operators and ensuring the public are screened safely without prolonged exposure to ionizing carcinogenic radiation with potential hazardous risks.

KNRA wrote to Fazul on November 27 saying their mandate includes radiation protection.

“This is particularly crucial for operators employed in private security roles,” DG Keter said.

He said they have affirmed that the provision of appropriate training as a first step is paramount and is anticipated to significantly contribute to the enhancement of radiation safety aspects for the personnel involved.

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