Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

Emergency Procedures

Radiation Safety

Emergency Procedures

Proper adherence to safety procedures while using radioisotopes should minimize the chance of accidents. However occasional emergencies in the isotope laboratory may occur. These may range from minor spills involving relatively no personal hazard, to major incidents and spills which may involve personal injury. As each case will differ, set rules and emergency procedures cannot be made to cover all possible situations. However, the primary concern must always be:

• Protection of personnel from radiation hazard
• Confinement of contamination to the local area of the incident

General guidelines to follow in the case of emergencies

Minor spills involving no radiation hazard to personnel

  1. Notify all other persons in the room immediately and advise them to leave if necessary. Notify the Radiation Safety Officer.
  2. Remove any contaminated clothing and assess if any areas of the body have been contaminated. If the individual is contaminated, follow procedures outlined in C.
  3. Confine the contamination. Put on protective clothing - a minimum of a lab coat and disposable rubber gloves are required. Turn off any device, instrument or machine that could enhance the spill.
    1. Liquid spills: Drop absorbent pads on the spill.
    2. Dry spills: Place dampened absorbent material over the spill. Do not spray with water as this may spread the material.
  4. Mark off the contaminated area with masking tape.
  5. Clean up the spill using a 2-5% solution of decontamination detergent, taking care not to spread the spill. If the contamination persists, increase the concentration of detergent. Place contaminated clean-up materials in the Solid Waste.
  6. Monitor the area carefully, using the appropriate detector, to ensure all splatters have been dealt with. If contamination persists, outline the area with tape and label with the date, type of isotope and approximate activity. Use appropriate shielding to protect workers from unnecessary exposure.

Major spills involving radiation hazard

  1. Notify all persons to leave the room immediately.
  2. If spill is on skin, flush thoroughly with water. If spill is on clothes, remove and discard in plastic bag.
  3. Confine the contamination but do not attempt clean-up.
  4. Notify the Radiation Safety Officer. Vacate the room and prohibit entry until approved by the Radiation Safety Officer. Post appropriate signs.

Decontamination of Personnel

  1. External Contamination
    1. Remove all contaminated clothing.
    2. Flush the contaminated area with copious amounts of water for several minutes. Wash with mild soap, gently lathering for three minutes. Rinse thoroughly. (DO NOT use harsh decontamination detergents).
    3. Monitor the contaminated area with the most appropriate detector and repeat b) as necessary.
    4. If contamination persists, use cold cream or baby oil to clean skin.
    5. Monitor, and if contamination persists, DO NOTHING MORE. Do not use abrasives or caustic detergents. Any further manipulation may result in injury to the tissue and internal contamination.
    6. Notify the Radiation Safety Officer.

  2. Internal Contamination
    1. If an individual has ingested or been accidentally injected with radioisotope, contact the Radiation Safety Officer immediately.
    2. If the ingested radioactive material is chemically toxic, treat the chemical toxicity first. If the individual is conscious, dilution of stomach contents by drinking copious amounts of water, immediately followed by medical attention is the best response. Refer to the Material Safety Data Sheet for First Aid information.
    3. For minor cuts or injections, allow the wound to bleed freely under a stream of water.

  3. Accidents Involving Personal Injury

    Treatment of the injury must take precedence, even if the individual is contaminated. Where possible, contamination should be "contained" by confining the injuring person to a restricted area.

    All accidents involving personal injury, no matter how minor in appearance, must be reported to the RSO and the First Aid Office within 24 hours.

    Minor injuries
    1. Treat minor injuries at or near the scene of the accident.
    2. Rinse contaminated wounds under a tap with copious quantities of water and encourage bleeding. If the wound is on the face, take care not to contaminate eyes, nose or mouth.
    3. Wash the wound with mild soap and water.
    4. Apply a first aid dressing. The injured areas should be monitored to establish the residual level of radioactivity.
    5. Immediately notify the Radiation Safety Officer and the First Aid Attendant (Dail 1111).

    Serious injuries
    1. In situations where there is serious bodily harm, call the First Aid Attendant immediately (Dial 1111) and the RSO. Advise emergency personnel of the contamination, nature of the injuries and isotope handling procedures.
    2. Ensure that the radioactive material does not further contaminate the victim or others in the area. Isolate contaminated body parts as much as possible using available shielding.


The Atomic Energy Control Board requires immediate reporting of these incidents. Any situation involving the disappearance of radioactive material must be reported immediately to the Radiation Safety Officer.