Office of Research

IX. Spills of Radioactive Materails

All spills of radioactive material require immediate response.  In the event of a spill, initial response rest with the individuals working in the area, involved with, and/or responsible for the spill. 

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHALL AN UNTRAINED PERSON BE ALLOWED TO EXAMINE OR CLEAN UP A SPILL OF RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL.  If assistance is needed, contact the R.S.O.

A. Laboratory Contamination

  1. Minor spills of radioactive materials over relatively small surface areas may be decontaminated by laboratory personnel.
  2. If laboratory contamination is widespread (on workbench, chairs, floor, etc.) or involves multi uCi to mCi levels of activity, the Radiation Safety Officer or his designee will supervise the decontamination activity.
B. Response to Spills

The following general guidelines should be followed when responding to a spill.

  1. Inform other laboratory personnel of the spill.  Have them leave the area, but remain in one place in order to minimize the possible spread of contamination.

2. Stop and/or confine the spill and restrict access to the contaminated area.  If the material is a liquid, place an absorbent material such as paper towels, tissues, cloth, etc. over the spill to prevent its spread.  If the material is a powered solid, attempt to contain its spread by gently covering the area with a similar protective barrier preferably wet cloth or wet absorbent paper.  Secure any local ventilation equipment that may aid in the transport of the material or cause airborne contamination.  Post or cordon off the area and restrict access to those individuals directly involved with the cleanup.

3. Monitor any personnel that were in the area at the time of the spill.  Begin with the head giving special attention to the nose and mouth to assess the possibility that internal uptake may have occurred.  Any facial contamination will be immediately reported to the R.S.O.  Remove any contaminated clothing and decontaminate as necessary.

4. Decontaminate the area.  If the activity of the material is not known prior to the spill, obtain a sample from the spill in order to evaluate the proper decontamination technique to be used.  Perform a survey after each decontamination order to assess the effectiveness of the effort. 

5. Begin wiping or mopping at the periphery of the spill and work toward the center of the contamination.  Any personnel involved in the decontamination effort will wear at a minimum: a lab coat, double vinyl or rubber gloves, and plastic shoe covers.  If these items are not available in the lab they may be obtained from the R.S.O.

6. Place all contaminated items in proper waste containers.  Contamination not readily removable after three attempts should be reported to the R.S.O.