Guidelines for Working with Radioactive Substances

Both TENORM (technologically-enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials) and NORM (naturally-occurring radioactive materilas) are comprised of materials that have been enriched by radioactive elements, like potassium, uranium, thorium, and decay products like radon and radium. Generally, these elements are located in the environment. The materials are typically made up of industrial by-products or wastes. One example of how NORMs are able to enter the environment around them is spills and discharges produced by water.

The Basics of NORMs and TENORMs

The principles listed below will provide you with valuable information on how radioactive materials can be handled safely. The following information relies on the current Code of Practice followed when radioactive substances are being handled, as well as applicable legislation.

Appropriate Procedures

Any experiences that utilize radioactive materials will need to be communicated to the HSE Department ahead of time. After the department has received a description of the experiment, they will offer detailed practices to promote health and safety in the workplace as well as the environment. It’s important to follow these practices to the letter.

Radioactive materials must be in line with the characteristics below:

  • Minimal radio-toxicity.
  • When possible, use isotopes that are short-living as opposed to ones with a longer lifespan.
  • Minimize the number of materials used.
  • Do not work in radioactive labs alone, particularly outside of typical working hours. It’s necessary to have another person present in case an emergency occurs.
  • All necessary precautions must be taken to avoid contamination, including:
  • Ensure that non-radioactive and radioactive activities are separated.
  • Control and place limits on areas in which radioactive materials are utilized. For example, you could line containers with paper that’s absorbent.
  • Make sure that all items that are in contact with radioactive materials are marked with a radiation symbol.
  • Documents, like notes, should be kept out of radioactive zones.

The right protective gear must be worn when working with radioactive materials, such as:

  • Lab coats. Disposable clothing should be worn when the risk for serious contamination is high. Lab coats should be stored in a separate location from everyday clothing.
  • Gloves. Not only should gloves be worn when radioactive materials are being handled, but the radiation levels of the gloves should be handled on a consistent basis. If it is possible that gloves are contaminated, you should not allow any materials to touch the gloves directly. Instead, you should use paper towels.
  • Shoe covers. Covers should be worn in any space where it is possible that floors have been contaminated.
  • Radiation shields. When it is necessary to use stock solution, it should be brought back to storage as soon as the amount required has been removed.

Personal items, like bags, should never be brought into the lab.

It’s important to follow the appropriate hygiene guidelines so that internal contamination can be prevented:

The radiation levels of objects used and your working area is something that should be checked throughout the day if possible. If radiation levels cannot be checked regularly, they should be checked at the end of the workday. If absorption paper has been contaminated, it should be replaced as soon as possible. Any objects that may have been contaminated should be decontaminated.

Radioactive waste must be disposed of in the correct containers. Short and long-living radioactive materials should be separated. Do what you can to reduce the waste that you produce.

If there is a problem while working with radioactive substances, only individuals that have been injured should leave the room. You should get in touch with your special contact at HSE immediately so that the HSE department can be contacted.

If incidents occur outside of standard working hours, the standard emergency number, (016 32) .22.22. should be used to report them. Make it clear that radioactive substances were involved in the incident.

If there are spills involving radioactive materials, you should be thorough when these spills are being cleaned.

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