BACKGROUND : Radiographic film processing chemicals contain hazardous substances which are known irritants, sensitisers,
corrosives, carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. Radiology personnel have reported serious adverse health effects
and some personnel have left the profession due to sensitisation to processing chemicals. Exposure is often due to lack
of knowledge about occupational health risks, poor structural design, substandard personal protective equipment (PPE),
and poor ventilation.
OBJECTIVE : This study investigated occupational health and safety practices in conventional radiographic film processing
personnel in Limpopo province, South Africa.
METHODS : We conducted a cross-sectional descriptive survey in 10 conveniently sampled hospitals in Limpopo province. A
self-administered questionnaire and a darkroom checklist were used to collect data on participants’ demographic characteristics,
types and usage of PPE, symptoms associated with exposure to processing chemicals, darkroom designs, and
ventilation systems used in the darkrooms.
RESULTS : In total, 57 radiographers and darkroom operators participated in the study. There was a shortage of PPE supplies,
and the available PPE was inadequate for protection. Overall PPE usage was very high at 84.2% but the majority
of participants (87.7%) reported work-related symptoms. Darkrooms were poorly designed and ventilated. There was no
relationship between work-related symptoms and participants’ socio-demographic characteristics. Failure to use gloves
was significantly associated with fatigue (p=0.036) and severe headache (p=0.017). Symptoms were more prevalent in
darkrooms where the entrance led straight into the X-ray room (p=0.000), or into offices and viewing areas (p=0.001).
CONCLUSION : Digital radiography will eventually completely eliminate occupational health risks associated with conventional
film processing. However, because some health effects can manifest many years after exposure, monitoring the
long-term health effects of exposure to processing chemicals is essential so that symptoms can be linked to occupational