University of Iowa

SAFETYmatters - Radioactive Material Etiquette

Article published September 2019

Summer is winding down, which means, fall, football, and the beginning of a new academic year. The Radiation Safety Section would like to take this opportunity to inform new users and remind existing users of radioactive materials (RAM) for non-human research, of the basic requirements for acquiring, storing, using, and disposing of these materials.

Acquiring Radioactive Material

Each principal investigator must have an approved authorization to receive and use RAM; authorization is obtained by completing an Authorization Request Form 1. This form is used to describe information on specific radionuclides and quantities requested, protocols, locations of use and storage, individuals working with RAM, safety measures, etc.  The University’s Basic Science Radiation Protection Committee reviews and approves these protocols.

Staff Training

All individuals working with RAM need to complete Radiation Safety, Basic training (W002RD) in ICON within 30 days of beginning work with radioactive materials. Radiation Safety, Refresher training (W001RD) is required annually thereafter. Failure to complete radiation safety training can result in loss of your privilege to use RAM.

Use and Storage Locations for RAM

All rooms for RAM use and storage must be assigned as such by EHS Radiation Safety staff and posted with appropriate signage. Contact EHS staff to post rooms in which RAM will be used and added to EHS's database. 

Records

Records of RAM receipt, usage, and area surveys must be maintained for all RAM use. Each vial or container of RAM should have its own log sheet, which is updated each time RAM is used. This inventory list will help ensure an accurate real time inventory of RAM in the lab, as well as assist with assigning quantities in radioactive waste containers. Area radiation exposure surveys are performed daily in RAM use areas, and contamination surveys performed weekly in all use and storage areas. EHS Radiation Safety staff can provide forms to use for these required records.

Food

Preparing, consuming, or storing food for human consumption in a RAM lab is prohibited. Any food used for research purposes only needs to be labeled as such, as does any equipment such as microwaves or other items used with this food. Discarded food packaging found in the lab will be considered evidence of eating in the lab and can result in violations cited by EHS auditors.

Three-Strikes Policy

EHS performs periodic radiation safety audits of RAM use areas to assess proper use, storage and recordkeeping practices. Specifically, EHS staff will look for proper signage, complete inventory and survey records, proper waste labeling and storage (i.e. secondary containment for liquid wastes), and use of protective equipment such as lab coats and shielding. The inspectors also ensure that any unattended RAM is secured against unauthorized access, and that there is no evidence of eating or drinking found in a RAM area.

When deficiencies are noted, the principal investigator is notified and corrective action implemented to prevent recurrence of the issue. If the same violation is noted three times within a 12-month period, the lab will lose its authorization to use RAM and must apply to the Basic Science Radiation Protection Committee in order to re-establish this privilege.

RAM Authorization Amendments

A Principal Investigator can modify their use authorization by completing one of two different amendment forms. To amend possession limits of previously approved radionuclides, use and storage locations, and/or add or delete personnel authorized to work with radioactive material, use Administrative Amendment Form 3.

To add radionuclides and/or new methodologies to an existing authorization, use Administrative Amendment Form 2

Contact EHS for assistance in completing these forms.

Lab Re-Locations and Close-Outs

When changing RAM use locations or discontinuing radioactive materials use in a given area, please contact Radiation Safety staff such that a de-posting survey can be performed and signage removed, and re-posted for the new area, if applicable. Lab staff are not authorized to re-locate RAM use areas and signage – only EHS staff can do this. For lab close-outs in which the investigator is leaving the University, please let EHS know as soon as possible, but no less than one month prior to leaving. This time is necessary for EHS staff to assess and remove not only radioactive waste, but chemical and biological wastes and hazards as well. Assistance from knowledgeable lab staff is critical for successful lab close-outs.

Contact information and areas of expertise can be found on the Contact Us page.