RADIOLOGICAL SPILL RESPONSE GUIDE:



Emergency telephone numbers:

  • Fire Department: 911
  • Medical Emergency: 911
  • Ambulance: 911
  • Poison Control Center: 1-800-3-POISON (1-800-376-4766)
  • Environmental Health and Safety:
    • During Work Hours: 575-5448
    • After Working Hours: 575-2222 or 911
  • HazMat Emergency Response Coordinator (Wayne Brashear): 263-1622
  • Radiation Safety Officer (Pradyot Chowdhury): 575-3379
  • Radiation Safety Supervisor (J.D. Farrel): (479)575-7916
  • Objective:

    These procedures are designed to prevent radioactive material entry into the human body by inhalation or ingestion, to limit personnel exposure to radiation sources, and to prevent further spread of radioactive contamination.

    Introduction:

    Most spills and contamination incidents will involve small quantities of material on laboratory bench tops, floors, and equipment. You may not even realize a spill has occurred. Therefore anytime you have been working with radioactive materials, before leaving the work space, survey the work area, the floor around the work area, equipment, and yourself. If contamination is detected, evaluate its extent.

    Precautions:

    Radioactive material can easily be spread outside the spill area by the movement of personnel involved with the spill or cleanup effort. Prevent spreading of radioactive material and contamination by restricting movement of personnel in the spill area until they have been monitored and found to be free of contamination. NEVER risk external or internal exposure to save equipment or an experiment.

    Severity of Spill:

    The decision to call an incident a major spill versus a minor spill is one that depends on several incident specific variables including isotope spilled, amount spilled, number of individuals affected, and the likelihood of the contamination being spread. For this reason we offer guidelines to help classify the spill rather than a definition of what constitutes a major or a minor spill:

    • Assess the extent of the contamination and if any personnel have been injured or contaminated!
    • Call the EH&S Radiation Safety Office at 575-3379/575-5448 and report the fact that a radioactive material spill has taken place, the lab, location and type of spill. EH&S will immediately dispatch the RSO to the site to help with the cleanup and to assure proper cleanup procedures are followed. The RSO should be contacted for any spill, even if you think you can handle the cleanup yourself!
    • With the assistance of the RSO, decide whether the situation can be handled safely by available lab personnel or the help of outside emergency personnel will be needed.
    • If no one has been injured or contaminated and it appears that lab personnel are capable of cleaning up and decontaminating the spill site without assistance, perhaps this is minor spill, again depending on the isotope spilled and the amount.
    • If anyone is injured or contaminated, consider this to be a major spill. Immediately call 911 and, if not already on site, the EH&S Radiation Safety Officer. 575-3379/575-5448

    Supplies needed to clean up a radiological spill:

    Any lab that works with radioactive materials must have a spill kit available that, at a minimum, contains the following:

    • Plastic bags
    • “Caution Radioactive Material” tape
    • Absorbent material (i.e. paper towels, blue pads)
    • An approved decontamination detergent such as “rad con”
    • Protective clothing, to include, but not limited to:
      • disposable gloves
      • disposable footwear
      • lab coats
      • safety goggles
    • Portable survey meter
    • Materials for taking swipes

    For MINOR Radiological Spills:

    1. Notify the EH&S Radiation Safety Office of the spill at 575-3379/575-5448
    2. Alert people in the immediate area of the spill and close off the spill area. KEEP UNINVOLVED PEOPLE OUT!
    3. If volatile materials are involved, shut off all ventilation, heating and air conditioning equipment that supply the room. Switch on fume hoods to exhaust the contaminated air and create a negative pressure in the room. Seal off the room.
    4. Don protective equipment including:
      • safety goggles
      • a double layer of disposable gloves (change the outer layer of gloves frequently)
      • shoe covers
      • a long-sleeve lab coat
      and proceed to clean up the spill.
    5. Always move from the outside of the spill inward, from least contaminated areas to most contaminated areas!
    6. Place absorbent paper towels or blue pads over liquid spills. Place dampened towels over spills of solid materials, being very careful not to breathe any dust coming from the spilled material. Be sure whatever material you chose to dampen the towels with will not react in any way with the spilled material!
    7. Place towels in a plastic bag and seal for transfer to a radioactive waste container. With gamma ray emitters, use forceps to pick up the paper towels. As you do this, do not press hard, but make sure that all the material has been picked up or absorbed. Do not leave any liquids behind. Be sure to add contaminated gloves or other disposable materials that have been contaminated to a rad waste container.
    8. For further decontamination, use a mild soapy solution or a commercial decontaminant such as “rad con” or “radiac wash” to clean up the remains of the spill.
    9. Monitor the area and your hands and shoes for contamination with an appropriate survey meter or method, i.e. Geiger Counter or swipes. Recall some isotopes can only be detected with swipes. Remove anything contaminated and either decontaminate or store for decay as appropriate.
    10. Repeat cleanup/decon procedure until contamination can no longer be detected.
    11. Draw map and take extensive swipes of the area, remembering to include floors, handles, equipment, etc. Use the Radiation Spill Survey Form to document the final survey, showing that the area is free of contamination and that proper spill procedures were followed. DOCUMENT EVERYTHING! Use the Radiation Spill Log Form and keep the completed forms as a record of the incident.

    For MAJOR Radiological Spills:

    1. Call 911 and the EH&S Radiation Safety Office (RSO/ARSO) for assistance: 575-3379/575-5448.
    2. Attend to injured or contaminated persons, if any, and remove them from the spill area. People first, then cleanup!
    3. Notify everyone in the area, but not involved in the cleanup effort, that they need to evacuate; but don't let anyone leave the area until they have been surveyed and found to be free of contamination. Pay close attention to shoes; you do not want to track contamination elsewhere! Keep others out of the area!
    4. If volatile materials are involved, shut off all ventilation, heating and air conditioning equipment that supply the room. Switch on fume hoods to exhaust the contaminated air and create a negative pressure in the room. Seal off the room.
    5. Evaluate the situation, and at earliest convenience, document the initial assessment.
    6. Follow the direction of the RSO/ARSO.
    7. Record the names of potentially contaminated personnel and have them stay in one area, away from the spill, until they have been surveyed and shown to be free of contamination. Remove contaminated clothing and wash contaminated skin with warm, soapy water, being careful not damage the skin. If contamination of the skin persists, induce sweating by covering the area with plastic, or if the contamination is on the hand(s) use disposable glove(s). Wash the affected area again to remove any contamination that was released by the perspiration.
      NOTE: Contamination on hands can be greatly reduced by trimming the fingernails. Also, open wounds and hard to reach places should be irrigated profusely with lukewarm water and cleaned with a swab, soap and detergent, and possibly a soft brush. Avoid the use of organic solvents which may increase skin penetration.
    8. Close doors and control entry into affected area. KEEP UNINVOLVED PEOPLE OUT! Identify clean vs. contaminated areas.
    9. Designate a person with knowledge of the incident and of the area to assist emergency personnel.
    10. Begin cleanup, ALWAYS move from the outside of the spill inward; from least contaminated areas to most contaminated areas!
    11. Draw map and take extensive swipes of the area, remembering to include floors, handles, equipment, etc. Use the Radiation Spill Survey Form to document the final survey, showing that the area is free of contamination and that proper spill procedures were followed. DOCUMENT EVERYTHING! Use the Radiation Spill Log Form and keep the completed forms as a record of the incident.

    Special Situations:


    In case of fire:

    1. Immediately notify persons in room and building.
    2. Activate the nearest alarm pull station.
    3. Call 911 from a safe location to report the emergency.
    4. Take everyone to a safe place and do not let anyone leave until they have been surveyed and are found to be free of contamination.
    5. When the major emergency is no longer a factor, decontaminate the room as normal.
    6. Be sure to document everything!

    In case of a spill involving radioactive biological materials:

    1. Decontaminate the biological material using an approved disinfectant while following the procedures outlined in the Biological Spill Procedures.
    2. Remove the remaining radioactive material while following normal procedures.
    3. Be sure to document everything!

    If exposure to elevated radiation levels is suspected:

    1. Eliminate the cause of the radiation and prevent access to any area where high radiation levels may persist.
    2. Call 911 and inform emergency personnel of suspected radiation overexposure.
    3. Notify the EH&S Radiation Safety Office at 575-3379/575-5448. Collect dosimeters (badges) for immediate reading. If badges are not available, provide Radiation Safety personnel with all information about the incident so they may calculate the exposures.
    4. Be sure to document everything!

    Some Points to Remember:

    1. Do not use hot water to clean H-3, C-14, or I-125 because it can cause volatilization, creating an inhalation hazard.
    2. Do not use any form of acid to decon I-125 nor I-131 because harmful gases may be produced.
    3. ALWAYS notify Radiation Safety, even if you believe you have thoroughly decontaminated the spill. 575-3379/575-5448
    4. Be sure to document everything!

    In summary:

    This acronym may help you remember the highlights of what to do in a radiological spill incident:

    Stop what you are doing.
    Presume you are contaminated.
    Inform others in the immediate area of the spill.
    Localize the spilled material(s).
    Label the area as contaminated.