Appendix D: Emergency Procedures

Introduction

Any medical emergency should take priority over radiological emergency. Radioactive materials used in research at UNR cannot produce life threatening levels of radiation under any circumstances.

The objectives for handling radiological emergencies are to assist injured personnel, minimize the radioactive material entering into human body, prevent the spread of contamination, and remove the contamination as soon as possible. When approaching radiological emergencies, it is recommended to apply these objectives using standard laboratory safety precautions, and a common sense approach because it is not possible to address all possible emergency scenarios.

All radiological incidents are to be reported to EH&S as soon as practical with the exception of easily cleaned minor contamination. All incidents must be documented. This documentation must include the final survey indicating that all contamination has been removed.

Personnel decontamination

Contaminated areas of the body need to be identified using appropriate survey methods. Do not use any decontamination methods which may spread material, increase penetration into the body, or spread to wounded area, if any.

Loose particles may be removed by gently applying adhesive side of tape to the particles attached to skin. Most contamination may be removed by running water over the contaminated area. Use soap or detergent if water by itself doesn’t remove all the contaminants, by applying gentle scrubbing. Avoid harsh scrubbing which may increase skin penetration. If contamination persists, stronger decontamination methods may be necessary after first consulting with the EH&S.

Decontamination of minor spills

Most incidents will involve small amounts (microcurie level) of radioactivity which are considered to be a minor spill or contamination. Commercially available cleaning supplies should be adequate. If necessary, it is recommended to use them only when other measures such as plain water do not work. The following steps are recommended:

  1. Warn others in the lab that a contamination occurred.
  2. Fresh new gloves should be worn to protect hands and avoid spread of contamination.
  3. Use paper towels or absorbent paper to prevent spread.
  4. Mark off the contaminated area.
  5. Do not allow lab personnel to leave the area without first being monitored.
  6. Secure all contaminated items in sealed containers to prevent spread of contamination

Major spills

It is considered a major spill if greater than mCi quantities of radioactive materials are spilled or if personnel are contaminated. It is not possible to address to all types of major spills. But the following steps are general guidelines to deal with major accidents:

  1. Upright the leaking container or cut off the release of radioactivity from the source if possible.
  2. Minimize radiation exposure to personnel.
  3. Minimize contamination from spreading.
  4. If airborne radioactivity is possible, turn off hood, and close windows, shut off ventilation if possible.
  5. Secure all contaminated items to prevent spread of contamination.
  6. Secure the contaminated area.
  7. Report incident to EH&S.
  8. Remain in the general area until EH&S personnel arrive.