Regulatory Information

Summary of Non-Ionising Radiation Regulations

Summary of the Radiation Protection (Non-Ionising Radiation) Regulations

Radiation Protection (Non-Ionising Radiation) Regulations 1991 was gazetted in November 1991 and implemented on 1 February 1992.

The complete text of these radiation regulations may be viewed here.

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In the 1980s, there were concerns over the safety of microwave ovens, lasers and ultrasonic devices, as these devices were increasingly being used in domestic and industrial applications. Microwave ovens were gaining popularity in households and in restaurants for cooking and warming up food, and lasers and ultrasound technologies were increasingly being applied in medical and industrial areas. Control over these potentially hazardous non-ionising radiation (NIR) devices was therefore necessary to ensure the safety of the people using such devices.

The Radiation Protection Act 1973 controlled only devices and materials that were capable of emitting ionising radiation such as X-ray, gamma, alpha and beta radiations. The concerns at that time focused on the hazards of ionising radiation which had been proven and documented. NIR devices did not come under any legislative control. For NIR devices to be controlled under the Radiation Protection Act, the 1973 Act was repealed in 1991 and re-enacted to include NIR devices by extending the definition of “radiation” to include non-ionising radiation.

The following Non-Ionising Radiation (NIR) devices were brought under legislative control:

  • Ultraviolet sunlamps
  • Microwave ovens
  • Medical and industrial ultrasound apparatus
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) apparatus
  • Entertainment lasers
  • High power industrial and medical lasers 

Licences are required for the manufacture, possession, use and sale of specified NIR apparatus. A licence is required for importing or exporting each consignment of NIR apparatus. All NIR apparatus should be manufactured and designed so that the requirements on shielding, interlocks and warning devices are met. All NIR irradiating apparatus must be appropriately labelled to give adequate warning of radiation hazards.

With effect from 28 May 2018, hardcopy licence application forms for new, renewal, amendment and cancellation of licences under the Radiation Protection Act will be replaced by online application forms to be submitted through LicenceOne. Consignment licences should continue to be applied for through the TradeNet System. 

A laser radiation worker must be at least 18 years old, adequately trained and have special knowledge on the safe use of lasers. He must hold a licence authorising him to operate the lasers. A licence to use Class 4 medical lasers may be granted only to registered medical practitioners and registered dentists.

High power lasers (Class 3b and 4) are used in industry for cutting, trimming, engraving, marking, drilling, welding, entertainment laser light show etc. As laser beams are highly collimated, low power lasers have been used to project reference lines for construction alignment equipment, dredging, tunneling, pipe laying and bridge building, laser pointers, scanners for deciphering coded package markings and low power entertainment laser games.

Lasers that are used for the purpose of in vivo diagnostic, surgical, therapeutic laser irradiation of any part of the human body are classified as medical lasers under the Act. They can be found in plastic surgery, ophthalmic, obstetrics and gynaecology applications. The photocoagulator is used by some surgeons to repair torn retinas. A limited beam laser has also been used to kill malignant tissue, burn away warts, remove birthmarks and for hair removal. Low power medical lasers can be found in various physiotherapy centres, acupuncture centres and beauty saloons. Acupuncture and cosmetic lasers are both categorised as medical lasers.

Licences for medical diagnostic and surgical ultrasonic devices may be granted to qualified medical practitioners only. Licences for therapeutic ultrasound may be granted to medical practitioners and qualified physiotherapists only. Industrial ultrasonic equipment with power output of more than 50 W are licensed, for example, ultrasonic cleaners, ultrasonic welders, ultrasonic cutters etc.