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Radiation Safety

Environmental Health and Safety

Rad. Emergencies

Please download this Emergency form  (.pdf) if needed.

Overview: Emergencies resulting from accidents in radionuclide laboratories may range from minor spills involving little or no personal hazard to major radiation incidents and spills that involve significant hazards and possible bodily injuries. Always take care of injuries first. Coordinate first aid measures with these procedures.

In the absence of a bodily injury to a person:

  1. Protect personnel from further exposure to radioactive materials;
  2. Confine any contamination to the local area; and
  3. Notify authorities.

Radiation Safety Officer (423) 439-6056 
Police, Fire, Ambulance ext. 911 Spills: Spills of radioactive material are classified as minor or major. An emergency spill procedure should be posted in every radioisotope laboratory. The recommendations for the spill procedure are listed below. 



Radionuclide Minor Spill  Major Spill
Tc-99 ≤1 mCi ≥100 mCi
C-14 ≤1 mCi ≥1 mCi
P-32 ≤100 μCi ≥100 μCi
P-33 ≤1 mCi ≥1 mCi
S-35 ≤1 mCi ≥1 mCi
Ca-45 ≤1 mCi ≥1 mCi
Cr-51 ≤10 mCi ≥10 mCi
Fe-55 ≤1 mCi ≥1 mCi
I-125/I-131 ≤100 μCi ≥100 μCi

Follow these steps carefully if a spill should occur. Spills confined to the radioactive work area are not normally classified as an emergency, but should be dealt with expeditiously. If radioactive materials come in direct contact with a person, contact the Radiation Safety Office immediately, regardless of quantities involved. Any spill of radioactive material shall be cleaned up immediately.

Minor Spills:

  1. Notify all persons in the room at once.
  2. Permit only the minimum number of persons in the area necessary to deal with the spill.
  3. Confine the spill immediately.
  4. Don protective gloves and drop absorbent paper on a liquid spill; dampen dry spills to prevent further spread.
  5. Decontaminate, using a monitor to check the progress of the work.
  6. Monitor all persons involved in the spill and the cleaning.
  7. Make note of the spill in your survey records.
  8. Contact the Radiation Safety Office as soon as possible. (439-6056)

Major Spills:

  1. Notify all persons not involved in the spill to vacate the room at once.
  2. If the spill is on clothing, discard outer clothing at once.
  3. All windows should be closed; fans and air conditioners should be shut off.
  4. Vacate the room and prohibit entrance except to emergency personnel.
  5. Contact the RSO immediately (439-6056).
  6. Declare area off limits.
  7. Take immediate steps to check and decontaminate involved personnel.
  8. Prepare a complete history, including the cause of the accident and names of personnel exposed.

Accidents Involving Airborne Contamination 
If radioactive dusts, mists, organic vapors and/or gases are involved:

  1. Notify all other persons to vacate the room immediately.
  2. Hold your breath and close all windows and escape valves.
  3. Switch off air circulating devices if time permits.
  4. Ascertain that all doors giving access to the room are closed and locked. If necessary, post guards to prevent accidental opening of doors.
  5. Notify the Radiation Safety Officer at once (439-6056).
  6. Do not re-enter the room without the approval of the Radiation Safety Officer.

Injuries to Personnel Involving A Radiation Hazard 
For major injuries:

  1. Care for the person first.
  2. Call 911.
  3. Notify the RSO immediately.

For minor injuries:

  1. Wash minor wounds immediately (within 15 minutes if possible) under running water.
  2. Notify the RSO immediately.

Responsible Users shouldn't permit anyone involved in a radiation injury to return to work without prior approval of the Radiation Safety Officer.

Over-exposure or Ingestion: Any person who suspects a radiation over-exposure from any source must report immediately, by phone or in person, to the Radiation Safety Officer. Any person who swallows, injects, absorbs, or otherwise ingests radioactive materials (excluding normal environmental contaminants and medical diagnostic or therapy material) must report the intake immediately to the Radiation Safety Officer.

Fires Involving Radioactivity:

  1. Call 911
  2. Notify the Radiation Safety Officer.
  3. Isolate the area and evacuate the building by shutting down all equipment in area, (if possible) and closing doors.
  4. Use a portable fire extinguisher only to assist yourself and others to evacuate or to control or put out a small fire if a radiation hazard is not immediately present.

Emergency Number: In case of any accidents or fire involving radioactive material call 911. Information to Give: When reporting any radiation emergency, always state:

  1. Type of radiation emergency
  2. Your name
  3. Where the radiation emergency happened
  4. What assistance may be needed
  5. The radionuclide(s) involved
  6. The activity, if known; and
  7. A call back number
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