Loyola University Chicago

Office of Research Services


  1. General Guidelines
    Even in a well-planned and executed program the possibility exists that incidents will occur. Recognition of this fact requires that suitable emergency procedures be prepared beforehand and be made known to all persons potentially involved. Each user should give consideration to the nature of possible accidents and be familiar with the following procedures.

  2. Missing Material
    When radioactive material is suspected of or confirmed to be missing, report to the RSO immediately. The RSO will determine what further action must be taken.

  3. Minor Radioactive Material Spills
    A spill is defined as the contamination of any article or surface outside a designated and/or shielded radiation use area or the unintended contamination of a permanent surface (hood, benchtop, shelf, apparatus, etc) within the shielded area. Minor contamination of absorbent paper within the use area is not considered a spill unless the activity exceeds 100 microcuries (see Major spills below). Contaminated absorbent paper should be disposed in the appropriate waste container as soon as possible.
    1. Notify all other persons in the room at once.
    2. Clear the immediate area of all other persons except those needed to deal with the spill area.
    3. Confine the spill immediately. (Use gloves!)
      1. Liquid spills: Drop absorbent paper or a spill pad or pillow on spill.
      2. Dry spills: Dampen thoroughly, taking care not to spread contamination (use water unless a chemical reaction would release air contaminants, otherwise use oil).
    4. Decontaminate.
    5. Monitor all persons involved in the spill and subsequent cleanup, and any person who may have come in contact with the contaminated surface or instrument.
    6. Do not resume work in the area until a survey shows the contamination is removed.
    7. Report the spill to the RSO. If the contamination cannot be removed, work in the area cannot resume without approval of the RSO.
  4. Major Radioactive Material Spills
    Any spill or accident outside of a hood involving more than 100 microcuries should be treated as an emergency and activate implementation of this emergency procedure, whether the material spilled is in solid or liquid form.
    1. The room must be vacated immediately and equipment that might spread the spill shut off. If the material is volatile or powdery, all lab personal present should hold their breath until they are clear of the room and the door is shut. A warning sign baring entry must be posted on the closed door.
    2. The immediate responsibility of individuals involved in or witnessing a major spill is the personal safety of all those present, and only secondarily the possible loss of material and/or data. Only those measures that can be carried out during the time in which the breath can be held before vacating the room to prevent the spread of a hazard should be undertaken (dropping absorbent cellulose pads for liquids, righting an overturned container, etc.) . Thereafter, entrance to the room shall be only under the supervision of the RSO or a designate and with suitable precautions.
    3. Any clothing suspected of having been contaminated shall be removed immediately and returned to the room in which the accident occurred, or to a closed radioactive waste container (do not transport through the building).
    4. If any of the spilled material may have come into contact with the skin, or any part of the individual's body, a thorough washing and flushing should be done immediately and an emergency shower used, if necessary. The amount of activity on the person before and after washing should be determined, if possible. The amount of material involved in the spill should be ascertained so that this information may be given to the RSO.
    5. As soon as the room is vacated contact:
      1. RSO, or if no answer, RSSI.
      2. The Authorized User
      3. A doctor or other medical assistance if necessary.
  5. Decontamination of Facilities
    Decontamination of facilities and equipment will be performed under the supervision of the RSO or his/her representative. Good detergents and water are usually suitable for cleaning most surfaces. As much as possible avoid spreading the contaminated region. during cleanup. More caustic or corrosive solutions may be used for severely contaminated surfaces. More detailed and specific agents and cleaning methods are available from the RSO.

  6. Decontamination of Personnel
    When an individual is seriously contaminated, the first consideration should be to seek medical attention. St. Francis Hospital in south Evanston is prepared to handle radiological emergencies from Loyola University-Lake Shore Campus on a 24-hour basis. The emergency room intake staff and the hospital Nuclear Medicine Department should be notified of any radioactive contamination on the individual or clothing or of the possibility of ingestion of radioisotopes.

    Decontamination of the skin and clothing should be performed immediately. The individual should remove contaminated clothing at once. Thorough washing with soap and water is the best general method for decontamination of the hands and other parts of the body regardless of the contaminant. Do not worry about spreading any skin contamination. Individuals who are cut by glassware or injured by hypodermic needles should wash the affected part under a strong stream of water immediately. Persons swallowing radioactive material should be treated as for poisoning. Vomiting should be induced or material should be removed by a stomach pump. In all cases of ingestion, bioassay samples will be required.


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