Year: 2021

01 Mar 2021
Incident Management for Radiation Incidents

Incident Management for Radiation Accidents

Any workplace, regardless of industry, can be affected by an emergency or accident. However, if your facility works with man-made ionizing radiation sources such as medical diagnostic equipment or radiopharmaceuticals, it is important you prepare for potential radiation incidents to ensure a swift and appropriate response should something occur.

Workplace radiation incidents can include:

  • Radioactive material spills or releases
  • Contamination of personnel
  • Malfunctioning safety controls
  • Lost, stolen, or orphaned radioactive material sources
  • Equipment leaks (ex. Industrial equipment)
  • Transportation incidents or accidents
  • Misuse of medical source materials or industrial radiographic material

While clean up methods and preventative measures will vary depending on the type and severity of the incident, how you collect and track information regarding the incident should be standard across your organization.

Identifying How the Accident Occurred


The first step in responding to a workplace radiation incident is understanding how the accident occurred in the first place. Was there any missing signage in the area where the accident occurred? Were ALARA principles being followed by all personnel? Has the equipment been properly maintained and inspected regularly? Even accidents that occur due to simple human error should be noted and tracked, especially if similar incidents happen regularly.

woman with yellow safety helmet and goggles on ipad

Identifying the Type of Radiation Exposure During an Incident


During a radiation incident, it is important to determine if and how an employee was exposed. The risk from exposure varies depending on the energy the radionuclide emits, the type of radiation (alpha, beta, gamma, x-rays), whether the exposure was external or internal (via injection, eating, drinking, etc.), how long people were near the radioactive material, and more.

Tracking this information is important because of the potential health effects that can result from radiation exposure. Exposure to low levels of radiation, such as the amount found in our environment (See Background Radiation Sources), will not typically have immediate health effects. However, it can contribute to overall cancer risk over a long period of time. Exposure to high doses of ionizing radiation can result in health problems ranging from skin burns and radiation sickness to cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Follow-Up


Sometimes the effects of a radiation incident or exposure will not be known right away. As time goes on, it can be difficult to recall the details of the incident with enough clarity to implement preventative measures. In these situations it is recommended that RSOs and EHS managers utilize an Incident Management software to not only identify and track the initial incident, but to use it to look back on what occurred when creating new policies and procedures.

Steps to Protect Against Future Exposure Incidents


Whether your facility handles man-made radiation or naturally occurring radioactive material, there are certain steps that can be taken to protect workers from future exposure after an incident has occurred.

  • Implement countermeasures such as time, distance, and shielding

Time, Distance, and Shielding are considered the standard measures for minimizing occupational radiation exposure. Limiting the amount of time spent around a radiation source reduces the overall dose from the radiation source. Similarly, the intensity and dose decrease the farther away a person is from a radiation source. Shielding measures including barriers made of lead, concrete, or water can provide protection from penetrating radiation such as gamma rays.  

  • Radiation Safety Training
    One of the best ways to keep accidents from occurring is by training employees on the basic principles of radiation safety and the risks of mishandling radiation producing equipment or radiopharmaceuticals. It is important to provide refresher training periodically, especially in light of an incident, to ensure employees are up to date and prepared.

  • Regular monitoring, inspections, and facility audits/surveys are also ideal ways to eliminate radiation accidents and ensure everything is operating smoothly.

Implementing safety measures and following ALARA principles will help decrease the number of incidents that occur, however it probably won’t eliminate them entirely. To ensure the safety of both yourself and others in your facility, it is vital that radiation incidents be attended to promptly. Furthermore, it is important that such incidents be carefully recorded and tracked to prohibit the incident from occurring again. Utilizing Incident Management software is a great way to help you document accidents, emergencies, and illnesses, view trends in data to identify problem areas, and help you prepare and prevent future incidents from happening.

Versant Physics radiation safety software suite Odyssey is now offering the Incident Management module. The module, which can be used individually or in conjunction with any of Odyssey’s radiation safety modules, provides RSOs and EHS professionals the ability to monitor and track a variety of workplace incidents, including radiation safety events.

odyssey incident management module on mobile devices

The module features a user-friendly dashboard for easy tracking and analysis. Users can also efficiently follow-up with open cases and analyze trends in reported incidents, making it easier to create a safe, compliant workplace for you and your staff.

Contact sales@versantphysics.com to schedule a demo, or visit our Odyssey page for more information on functionality and pricing.


Resources:

28 Jan 2021
Five Reasons Your Facility Needs a Radiation Safety Officer

Five Reasons Your Facility Needs a Radiation Safety Officer

A radiation safety officer is an individual responsible for radiation safety in a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) or Agreement State licensed program. They ensure that any activity involving radiation and radioactive materials is conducted safely to prohibit unnecessary exposure and that all licensed activities are conducted in compliance with both license and regulation requirements. Their responsibilities are varied and extensive, however, an RSO can generally expect to conduct reviews of occupational exposures, surveys and program audits, and lead radiation safety training sessions for authorized users, workers, and ancillary personnel. They are also in charge of spill response and contamination protocols, radioactive material transportation, storage, and disposal, and enforcing the ALARA (As Low as Reasonably Achievable) principle.

RSOs are frequently found in medical facilities that intentionally administer radioactive materials to patients in the form of X-ray and fluoroscopy procedures, radiopharmaceuticals (bone scan, stress test, PET/CT, etc), and radiation therapy. To perform these procedures, medical facilities are required to obtain a permit or license, either issued by the NRC or Agreement State, which an RSO must be listed on.

Medical x-ray machines.

But is an RSO needed for non-medical facilities as well?

In short, yes. Having an RSO on your team is not only beneficial for the overall safety of your clients and staff but is also a requirement of any licensed radiation safety program. We have outlined five reasons that will help you determine if your facility needs an RSO.

1. Your facility houses or utilizes radioactive materials, radiation-producing machines, and/or non-ionizing radiation sources such as lasers.


Specific regulations vary from state to state, however, if your facility utilizes any kind of ionizing or non-ionizing radiation source, you need a radiation safety program, and someone specifically trained to manage it.

In addition to overseeing the radiation safety program and all that entails, the RSO will keep an inventory of all material and machines located in your organization, ensure proper labeling, maintain current machine registrations, and ensure appropriate calibration and testing are performed regularly.

2. You need a highly trained individual who is well-versed in the U.S. NRC or state specific regulations that govern radiation safety and medical use of radioactive materials.


An RSO is properly trained on principles and practices of radiation protection, radiation measurement and monitoring, the biological effects of radiation, and more.

As part of their training, they are also familiar with the extensive regulations laid out by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) or Agreement States. It is their duty to navigate these regulations for your organization to ensure compliance, and to keep on top of any updates that may impact your organization or its employees.

NRC Agreement States

3. You need someone to enforce radiation policies and procedures.


An RSO is granted the authority by management to enforce policies and procedures regarding radiation safety and regulatory compliance established in an organization’s radiation protection program or license. With all that is required of a safe, successful radiation protection program, you can rely on the RSO to make sure everything is in order and the rules are being followed by all participants.

4. You want to identify problems and implement corrective actions quickly.


Of course, accidents happen. Whether due to human error or technical malfunction, they are unavoidable. While we are all familiar with the devastating effects of radiation-related accidents, including those which occurred in the wake of nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island and Fukushima, these types of accidents are not likely to occur in your organization’s day-to-day activities. However, issues such as missing signs, incorrect labels, faulty shielding, or improperly calibrated instruments can not only cost your organization big fines but can pose direct health risks to you and your staff if left unchecked.

A designated RSO not only takes charge and initiates corrective actions during an emergency, but they are also responsible for investigating incidents and finding solutions to ensure such issues do not occur again. They are often the link between management and operations, alerting them to any problems that exist, and continually update and revise the policies laid out in their radiation safety program. They also perform regular safety training and program audits which are excellent ways to identify problem areas and terminate unsafe operations before they become a problem.

5. You want to protect your personnel from occupational radiation exposure risks.


Medical personnel are not the only ones at risk of occupational radiation exposure. Anyone who regularly uses or operates radiation-producing machinery, including researchers, manufacturers, and salespeople, can be exposed. If not properly controlled and monitored, these exposures can cause damage to the cells and genetic material and lead to serious health problems such as cataracts, temporary or permanent sterility, and cancer.

professionals at risk of occupational radiation exposure
Medical personnel are not the only ones at risk of occupational radiation exposure.

Although direct supervision of individuals using ionizing radiation is not typically a role of the RSO, the RSO is responsible for ensuring all authorized users and ancillary workers are properly trained in basic radiation safety and enforce control measures, such as shielding and personal protective equipment (PPE).

An RSO will also likely suggest a personnel monitoring program that assigns dosimeters to your staff and monitors their received radiation dose as well. In addition to advising on who and when individuals should be monitored, they will regularly monitor doses, manage declared pregnancies, and provide compliance reports.

See our post about using Odyssey to manage your personnel dosimetry program.

Next Steps


A properly trained individual, whether they are a licensed medical professional or not, can be added to a license as the RSO if they have successfully completed all the education and experience requirements of the current regulations and agree to be responsible for implementing the radiation safety program. Depending on their other professional responsibilities, they can serve as full or part-time. An RSO should also have excellent management and record-keeping skills and be comfortable with interacting with regulatory agencies.

Due to the extensive training and knowledge required for this role, many organizations choose to outsource this work. Versant Physics offers RSO and Regulatory support for traditional medical facilities such as hospitals and clinics, universities, small businesses, medical equipment manufacturers, and more. Whether you are looking for a consultant to assist on minor aspects of your program, on-site personnel to perform a program audit or survey, or you need help managing your personnel dosimetry program, our experienced, knowledgeable medical and health physicists, qualified experts, and support specialists can help.

Visit our regulatory page for a complete list of regulatory service offerings or contact sales@versantphysics.com to speak to a physicist about your unique program needs. 


References:

  1. Versant Medical Physics and Radiation Safety. Virtual MRSO Course. January 22, 2021. https://www.versantphysics.com/online-mrso-training
  2. 35.50 Training for Radiation Safety Officer and Associate Radiation Safety Officer. January 16, 2019. https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/cfr/part035/part035-0050.html
  3. “RSO Responsibilities” https://www.apnga.com/rso-responsibilities/
  4. AAPM Report No. 160. “Radiation Safety Officer Qualifications for Medical Facilities.” November 2010.
  5. https://www.osha.gov/ionizing-radiation

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Forum Article "Radiopharmaceutical Extravasation: Pragmatic Radiation Protection" published ahead of print

An article written by Versant team members Dr. Darrell R. Fisher, Ph.D. and Misty Liverett, M.S., CNMT was recently published ahead of print in Health Physics. The article provides an unbiased, scientific assessment of pragmatic and reasonable health physics actions that should be taken in response to inadvertent extravasation events. Click the link below to view the article.

Permits

THE PERMISSION SYSTEM FOR INVENTORY TRACKING, MACHINE MANAGEMENT & EQUIPMENT CATALOG MODULES

Permit Profile

Each permit has a dedicated profile of information that includes authorized personnel, radioactive material, machines, and devices. Permit conditions, completed audits, and forms are also found on this profile.

Authorized Condition Database

Create and view authorized conditions included on permits. Previously created authorized conditions are listed with their code, category, and description.

Permit Enforcement

Information specified on a permit not only serves as a record of that permit, but also controls what can be added to other modules. The location, owner and type of radioactive materials, machines, and equipment can be enforced by permits.

Permit Audits

Perform permit audits, mail the results to relevant personnel, and track responses to non-compliances.