Radiation Spill and Incident Procedures
Who to Notify
What to Do
An accident may happen to even the most careful of workers, and any
worker may be called upon to assist in the case of a spill, a contamination
incident, or an emergency. Be prepared and know how to respond before an
The following procedures provide an overview of who to notify and how
to respond to several different types of incidents. Emergency Response
Guidelines books which list incident contact phone numbers and procedures
are posted near a telephone in every lab.
Who To Notify (top)
An incident can be readily handled with laboratory or other University
resources and may include a spill of radioactive materials, an incident
of personal contamination or a possible exposure to an x-ray source.
- During normal working hours, call Environmental Health & Safety
(EHS) at 8-5294, or
- Outside normal working hours, call Public
Safety at 8-3134.
In the event of a fire, explosion
or serious injury:
- First, call Public
Safety at 911 anytime.
- Second, during normal working hours, call EHS at 8-5294.
- Third, contact any Laboratory or Departmental Emergency contacts
listed on the bright yellow Emergency Information poster found on
or near the entrance to the laboratory.
What to Do (top)
When a Spill Occurs or Contamination
Refer to flowchart that explains how to
respond in the event that a spill occurs in the lab, in the event that
widespread contamination is found, and
how to perform decontamination.
For Skin and Body Contamination
- Notify EHS immediately whenever any case of skin or body contamination
- Note the original survey meter reading, the location of the contaminated
area and the time of the contamination was discovered. EHS will use
this information to calculate dose.
- Wash skin using mild soap and warm water for 2-3 minutes. Do not
abrade skin or use hot water.
- Measure and record the count rate after the initial attempt at
decontamination. Survey and repeat decontamination until the count
rate cannot be reduced any further.
- If the skin becomes irritated, discontinue decontamination.
- When decontamination efforts are not immediately successful, often
a substantial reduction in count rate is achieved during the next
24 hours with periodic washings with soap and water, combined with
normal flaking of the skin.
A Serious Injury with Radioactive Contamination
Serious injury and life-or-death situations always take priority
over radiological concerns. In all cases of physical injury, even minor
injuries, medical attention and hospitalization take precedence over
contamination concerns. There are no radiation sources at the University
that produce contamination and radiation exposure risks large enough
to prevent first aid from being given.
- Follow the Fire, Explosion & Serious Injury notification procedure.
Public Safety responders are trained to provide first aid.
- If possible, have someone meet emergency response personnel and
escort them to the accident scene.
- Remove contaminated items and clothing from the victim only if
these actions will cause no further harm.
- If time permits, attempt to provide an uncontaminated pathway for
the emergency crew.
- Have someone who can provide useful additional information accompany
the victim to the emergency room.
Possible Overexposure to Sources of Radiation
The most likely scenario for a serious overexposure to radiation
involves exposure to the primary beam of an x-ray diffractometer or
to a high activity sealed source. In any case, notify EHS, who will
provide additional instructions, based on the exposure conditions.