Radiation Safety

Spills

Nonvolatile Liquid Spill

When liquid radioactive material is spilled in a laboratory, specific action must be taken. Listed below, in order of priority, are steps to be taken in handling a typical spill; such as spills of millicurie amounts of a radioisotope.

1.      Request help from lab workers, if present.

2.      Make a quick evaluation of the extent of the hazard. If there is an airborne problem, shut off the air handling system, leave the immediate area, but keep involved personnel in the general area; prevent the entry of non-essential personnel; and contact emergency personnel. If there is no airborne problem, proceed to monitor personnel and the area to establish the extent of contamination. If the radiation levels exceed two millirem per hour, shield the source or leave the area. Be careful to not track contamination away from the spillage area.

3.      Control the area. To protect people against radiation exposure and to avoid the spread of contamination, rope off the area and post signs warning of the radiation incident. If shoes are contaminated and you must leave the area, go to the outer perimeter of the contaminated area and remove shoes. Try not to leave the area unattended.

4.      Notify the Radiation Safety Officer of the spill. Provide details of the incident, as best you can, and the location of the incident. Maintain control of the area until safety personnel arrive.

5.      Decontaminate the workers involved, their clothing and the area, under the supervision of safety personnel. Decontamination supplies and waste containers will be provided. Skin should be decontaminated immediately. Contaminated clothing should be promptly removed. Skin and clothing shall be reported to the Radiation Safety Officer.

6.      The decontamination procedure for a spill is to start at the perimeter (the least concentrated area), absorbing the radioactive liquid while working toward the center of the spill area (the most concentrated area). After the major portion of the liquid is absorbed, further decontaminate using a decontamination agent, as instructed. Repeat the decontamination procedure until the wipe tests (performed by Radiation Safety Officer) reveal that the activity is within the permissible limits.

7.      Assist in preparing the final report by giving detailed information of the incident to the Radiation Safety Officer.

Powdered, Volatile Liquid or Gaseous Activity Spill

1.      Evacuate personnel immediately and turn off any laboratory apparatus that needs constant attention.

2.      Turn off re-circulating air handling equipment, if possible.

3.      Assemble personnel immediately outside the room and instruct them to stay in one location, to prevent the spread of contamination.

4.      Close and lock the room doors to prevent reentry. If the hood fans are off, try to seal accessible openings into the laboratory to prevent further escape of airborne activity into the corridor.

Page last modified May 19, 2011