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Environmental Health and Safety

Radiation Hazards

Learn what to do in the event of an incident or emergency situation that could involve ionizing and non-ionizing radiation.

For Major Incidents Requiring Immediate Attention.

  1. Contact USCPD at 803-777-4215.
  2. Contact the Radiation Safety Officer immediately by calling 803-777-7530. The officer is available by phone 24/7.

Reporting Requirements

If an incident occurs, no matter the severity — even very minor incidents or near misses — you must notify the university's Radiation Safety Office at will be completed for all near misses and incidents. Radiation Safety Office staff will work with involved individuals to complete these reports.

Please ensure that you report an incident or near miss. Accidents happen and will never be considered as a fault scenario where someone will be blamed by radiation safety staff. Reporting all incidents and near misses ensures that proper evaluations occur. For example, external and/or internal radiation dose that leads to laser eye damage. Accidents and near misses are also learning opportunities so that help us prevent a repeat incident.

Possible Exposure Scenarios

For very small amounts of contamination (a few drops or < 1 ml) on benchtops and/or floors, decontaminate the area using the most effective material for the liquid involved.

  • General radioactive decontamination solutions such as “No-Count” can be effective.
  • Clean the area until there is no measurable fixed contamination above background utilizing a survey meter.
  • Removable contamination must be < than three times background.
  • Any removable contamination that cannot be cleaned must be covered with absorbent paper with plastic backing facing up; and taped down utilizing “Caution – Radioactive Material” tape.

Contact the Radiation Safety Office for follow-up consultation as soon as possible.

Larger amounts of contamination where the spilled liquid is flowing; or for any powders where contamination is widespread, is considered an emergency situation.

Everyone in the laboratory at the time of the spill must be notified to leave the laboratory; but to stay in the general vicinity to be surveyed for contamination before being allowed to leave the general area to prevent potential contamination spread to larger areas beyond the laboratory.

Contain any flowing liquid by immediately placing absorbent onto the liquid.

Once the spill is contained and individuals notified, immediately contact the Radiation Safety Officer at 803-777-7530. If after-hours, contact USCPD at 803-777-4215.

If contamination is identified on clothing, immediately remove the contaminated clothing and survey the underlying skin. Immediately contact the Radiation Safety Office at 803-777-7530.

If skin is contaminated, immediately begin washing the area with soap and water. Immediately contact the Radiation Safety Office at 803-777-7530.

Refer to page 46 of the Radiation Safety Manual [pdf] for more detailed instructions on decontamination.

If a laser injury to the eye and/or skin is suspected or known, contact 911 immediately for transport to the nearest emergency room for treatment. Notify emergency room personnel regarding the type of laser that caused the injury.

Known or suspected eye injuries from a laser must be evaluated and treated by an ophthalmologist as soon as possible.

X-ray injuries are unlikely. Focused and powerful X-ray beams in analytical systems in research laboratories are enclosed and interlocked to prevent injuries to tissue.

Procedures for diagnostic X-ray imaging are enacted for all human use diagnostic system to prevent an occupational X-ray exposure to the operator that could be injurious.

However, should an X-ray exposure be suspected or known, immediately contact 911 for transport to the nearest emergency room for treatment. Symptoms of an X-ray exposure include reddening of the tissue exposed, swelling and pain.

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