IV. Rules for the Safe Use of Radioactive Materials

All personnel who work with radioactive materials are responsible for protecting themselves and others from any radiation hazards arising from their work.  Good housekeeping and careful laboratory techniques are the primary means of preventing the spread of contamination and preventing the internal uptake of radioactive materials into the body.  The following rules must be observed.


A.        General Radiological Safety Rules and Procedures


1.         Knowledge of Proper Procedures

All persons who work with radioactive materials shall be fully aware of the procedures specified in this manual, and be instructed in matters of radiological safety.  Copies of this manual and other technical data pertaining to radiation safety are available through the Radiation Safety Office.  It is the responsibility of the RI to ensure that all personnel working under his/her supervision have read and understand the contents of this manual.


2.         Eating and Drinking

Eating, drinking, smoking, the application of cosmetics, and other similar activities that could lead to the internal uptake of radioactive contamination, are prohibited in areas where unsealed radioactive materials are used or stored.  One's hands should always be washed after handling radioactive materials, especially before eating.


3.         Housekeeping

 High standards of cleanliness and good housekeeping must be maintained in all laboratories where radioactive material is present.


4.         Janitorial Staff

Janitorial personnel shall not empty any containers or otherwise remove any material marked as "Radioactive Material".  Janitorial staff will perform their duties such as mopping in “clean” areas (meeting unrestricted release limits for removable contamination) only.  The RI or designated radiation worker shall be responsible for all housekeeping otherwise.


5.         Glassware and other Utensils

 Contaminated glassware and other utensils shall be segregated from other laboratory glassware or utensils and will be labeled with tape or tags bearing the radiation trifoil and the words "CAUTION RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL". 


a.         Contaminated area for staging Areas

Staging areas should be used to segregate clean from contaminated material.  This "staging area" may be a table, an entire bench top or a portion of a bench top, and should be delineated by placing yellow and magenta tape or rope around the perimeter of the area, and a sign bearing the radiation caution symbol and the words "CONTAMINATED AREA".


b.           Although the entire laboratory is a "RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS AREA" and any item within the lab has a potential for becoming contaminated, items within this area will be considered to be contaminated and should be surveyed before being removed to clean areas of the lab or before being removed from the lab proper.


6.         Containers

Radioactive materials will not be left in uncovered containers.  Glass containers should be placed inside larger break-resistant secondary containers (or inside fume hoods).  Any container of licensed material shall bear a durable, clearly visible label identifying the radioactive contents so that individuals handling or using the containers or working in the vicinity may take precautions to avoid or minimize exposures.


a.         At a minimum, the label will bear the radiation caution symbol and the words "CAUTION-RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL".


7.         Work Surfaces

Disposable absorbent pads or lipped trays will be used to protect work surfaces and to confine spills.  Work with radioactive materials shall be performed in ventilated fume hoods if the manipulation of such materials involves any possibility of airborne contamination.


a. Whenever possible, chemical procedures are to be carried out with all of the equipment in a tray containing absorbent paper, which has a volume large enough to accommodate twice the experimental volume in the event of an accident. 

b. Heating and boiling of radioactive solutions, mechanical mixing and/or grinding, and work with radioactive iodine will take place in a fume hood with an average capture velocity of at least 100 linear ft/sec at an opening of not less than 18”.


8.         Trial Runs

Before a new nuclide or procedure is introduced, it is accepted practice to rehearse the operations without the radionuclide present.  This will help to increase efficiency, identify problem areas, and may reduce the time needed to complete the task.


9.         Protective Clothing

At a minimum, a lab coat and gloves shall be worn whenever the possibility of contamination exists i.e., any time unsealed source material is handled.  Potentially contaminated lab coats will not be worn outside of the lab. 


a.         Eye protection is required for all lab occupants under the University’s Chemical Hygiene Plan, and is additionally important as protection to the lens of the eye from high-energy betas emitted from P-32.


10.       Pipetting

Pipetting or similar operations of radioactive solutions by mouth are strictly prohibited.


11. "ALARA" Concept

All exposure to radiation will be kept ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable).  Radioisotopes shall be used in such a manner that radiation exposure to personnel and to the environment shall be kept as low as possible. The use of appropriately designed shields and proper work practices will help to minimize exposure.   Engineering controls such as fume hoods and glove boxes will help to prevent internal exposure.


12.       Remote Handling / Shielding

Whenever possible, remote handling devices such as tongs or forceps should be used when working with significant activities of gamma emitters or high-energy beta emitters.  This will increase the distance from the source and thereby reduce the rate of exposure.

a.         Do not work over open containers of beta emitters.  Lead and/or Plexiglas shields should be used for sources having high radiation intensity.  Do not use thin sheet, high-density materials (Pb sheeting) for the shielding of high energy (approaching > 1 meV.) beta radiation.


13.       Personnel Monitoring

Personnel monitoring devices such as film badges or Thermoluminescent Dosimeters (TLDs) will be utilized based on the type and amount of radioisotopes being used.  Film badges or pocket ion chambers cannot detect low energy beta radiation from H-3 and C-14, but will be required for work with higher energy radiations such as P-32 and gamma emitters, which are capable of producing whole body exposure rates > 0.5 mrem / hr.

All personnel who have been designated to wear monitoring equipment by the Radiation Safety Officer shall wear these devices when they work with or near radioactive materials.


14.       Monitoring

While working with radioactive materials periodically monitor hands, feet, clothing, and the immediate work area to check for radioactive contamination.  Personnel shall monitor themselves and their work surfaces for contamination after each use of unsealed radioactive materials.


15.       Removal of Equipment

All equipment that is suspected to have come in contact with unsealed radioactive source material or which has been inside radioactive materials work areas shall be considered potentially contaminated.  The equipment must be monitored for contamination by an Senior Rad Worker before being removed from the laboratory.


16.       Maintenance or Renovation

Whenever maintenance or renovation of potentially contaminated facilities or equipment (sinks, hoods, pumps, lab benches, etc.) is required, a survey of the area will be performed.  Radiation Safety Office will perform the survey if other qualified personal are not available.


17.      Waste

Radioactive wastes will be placed in specially marked receptacles.  Radioactive liquids, other than reinstate from the washing of contaminated glassware, may not be disposed of via the sanitary sewer.  See “Part Two - Radioactive Waste Disposal” for specific waste handling procedures


18.       Animals

The Animal Research Committee and the Radiation Safety Committee must approve isotopic work with animals.  See section F.  Part Two of the Radiation Safety and Waste Management manual for animal/biological waste handling procedures.

 a.         Animals which have been injected with or that have ingested radionuclides will be handled with the following precautions:

(1)       All excreta and animal bedding will be double bagged and treated as radioactive biological waste.

(2)       Cages will be monitored for radioactivity and decontaminated as necessary.

(3)       Appropriate warning signs shall be posted on the cages. 

(4)       Adequate ventilation must be provided when animals are injected with radionuclides, which may be expired and dispersed into a room.


b. Researchers are encouraged to consult  the R.S.O. prior to applying for approval to conduct animal research involving the use of radionuclides.


19.       Personnel Injuries

All injuries to personnel involving radioactive material, no matter how slight, shall be monitored to determine if the wound is contaminated.  Special protection is required to prevent the entry of radioactive materi­als into the body through wounds.  Consult the R.S.O. before handling unsealed source material with an open wound.


NOTE:  THE SAFETY OF AN INJURED INDIVIDUAL ALWAYS TAKES PRECEDENCE OVER CONTAMINATION CONTROL.  Decontamination efforts are secondary to the provision of first aid and medical attention for the injured individual.


20.       Moving Authorized Places of Use

Contact the RSO for approval prior to moving or modifying laboratory or other areas which are authorized for the use or storage of radioactive materials or radiation producing equipment.  Notification should be given 30 days in advance to allow time for approval and for performance of termination surveys.