The Radiation Safety Bill, which will repeal and replace the Radiation Protection Act 1965, was referred to Parliament's Health Committee on 11 March 2015.
The Bill will provide an enhanced legislative framework for radiation safety that responds effectively to the range of technological, scientific, and organisational changes that have occurred over the last five decades while the current Act has been in force. The policy objectives of the Bill are:-
Protect the health and safety of individuals and the environment from the harmful effects of radiation.
Ensure the safe and secure management of radiation sources and their beneficial use.
Bring New Zealand into line with international best practice and international obligations with respect to the safety and security of radiation sources and their use.
The Health Select Committee has called for public submissions on the Bill. The closing date for submissions is Wednesday 22 April 2015. Information about making a submission is available on the Parliament website.
The key aspects of the Bill relating to dentistry are:
There will be an increased focus on owner's responsibilities. Owners will have to obtain a source licence authorising them to manage or control radiation sources, including dental x-ray equipment.
The current Act requires users to either hold a licence or act under the supervision or instructions of a licensed user. This, for example, has allowed dental therapists to act under the written instructions of principal dentists. These rules are tightened under the Bill with the requirement that unlicensed users must act under the "direct supervision" of a licensed user.
The Ministry of Health is currently drafting regulations that will exempt some classes of users from the need to obtain a user licence. It is hoped that this exemption could apply to many of the health professionals registered with the Dental Council.
The Dental Council is in discussions with the Office of Radiation Safety of the Ministry of Health in this regard.