RADIATION & LASER SAFETY

The ultimate aim when working with any source of radiation is to minimise the doses that staff and students receive. This is what is known as the ALARA principle - keeping doses "As Low As Reasonably Achievable".

This information is designed for Heads of Schools, Disciplines, Units, Chief Investigators and all research staff where ionising radiation is used. It is also applicable to all research students.

Heads of Schools, Departments, Disciplines or Units must ensure that legislative requirements are complied with in their area. Each area needs to appoint a local radiation safety officer who can monitor the use of radioactive material in their area.

The Radiation Safety Committee (RSC) is responsible for overseeing the safe use of ionizing radiation within the University. The committee consists of a cross section of persons from laboratories, representative of the applications of radiation conducted throughout the University.

WHS Responsibilities provide guidance for the management of Workplace Health & Safety.

Table of Contents


The following information sheets on radiation safety have been produced by the RSC to assist researchers using sources of radiation:

Radiation infosheets
EPA Licensing
The Radiation Safety Committee (RSC)
Local Radiation Safety Responsibilities
Risk Assessments for Projects Involving Ionizing Radiation
New Project - Requirements
Radiation Laboratories - Exit Information Sheet
Legacy Source - Repository Rules
Equipment Disposal – From Radiation Laboratories
End of Research Project - Information Sheet
Scintillation Counters - Disposal Information Sheet
SPring8 - Requirements
Laser Pointer Usage
Disposal of Scintillation Liquid
Personal Monitoring
Thyroid Monitoring

Legislation

The possession and use of radioactive material and irradiating apparatus (regulated material) in NSW is governed by the Radiation Control Act 1990, Radiation Control Amendment Act 2010 & Radiation Control Regulation 2013 administered by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

This legislation requires licences for the possession and use of regulated material. The University requires a Radiation Management Licence for the material it possesses. Researchers and staff using radioactive material or X-ray equipment require a Radiation User Licence.

The University's Radiation Management Licence replaced the need for registration of laboratories and x-ray equipment.

Non-ionizing radiation

Unlike sources of ionising radiation, non-ionizing radiation is not regulated under Radiation Control Act and there is no regulatory requirement for users of high power non-ionizing radiation sources to be licenced to use the equipment.

Refer to the ARPANSA Codes of Practice and Safety Guides and the Australian Standards. If you require assistance with finding a relevant Code of Practice or Australian Standard please contact the Radiation Safety Officer for advice.

All projects involving non-ionizing radiation must have RSC clearance prior to commencement. Completion of a non-ionizing radiation project clearance form is a mandatory requirement for all new research grant proposals involving the use of non-ionizing radiation. The completed project clearance form should be forwarded to the Radiation Safety Officer. These projects will be assessed by the Radiation Safety Committee.

Management Licence

From 1 July 2013 the Radiation Control Regulations 2013 requires the University to posess a Radiation Management Licence.

This new licence type replaces the need to register individual laboratories, x-ray apparatus and devices containing radioactive material.

The University will have to ensure that all laboratories, x-ray apparatus and sealed source devices covered under this licence comply with the conditions of their previous registration.

User Licence

The Radiation Control Act requires persons who use radioactive material or irradiating apparatus to possess a Radiation User License. Further information including a licence application form can be obtained from the EPA Radiation licensing website.

At the University, any student working with unsealed isotpes under supervision is exempt from licensing. However this exemption is only valid if they are supervised by licenced staff member with a "supervision" condition on their licence.

A licence to use radioactive material is not required for isotope activities below certain prescribed levels. For example, a licence is not required to use H-3 below 40 MBq. For activities of other isotopes refer to Schedule 1 of the Radiation Control Regulation 2013. Other exemptions from licensing exist and are listed in Schedule 4 of the Regulation.

Projects involving ionizing radiation

All projects involving ionizing radiation should have a risk assessment completed prior to the commencement of any work.

Completion of a Radiation Project Approval which includes a basic risk assessment is a mandatory requirement for all new research grant projects involving the use of ionizing radiation. These projects will be assessed by the Radiation Safety Committee.

Training

The University requires all persons working with radioisotopes to attend a radiation safety training course. The training course is provided free of charge to staff and students. Courses usually commence in the week before the start of each semester and are advertised through the Safety Health & Wellbeing newsletter, Staff News and via the local safety officers network.

Course details and enrollment are accessed via CareerPath. Search for "radiation safety". The course is accepted by the EPA as a qualification to obtain a radiation licence to use isotopes for research purposes.

Similar radiation safety courses are available from ANSTO on a user pay basis.

The RSC has determined that staff should attend a half day refresher course if they have not received training in the previous 5 years. These sessions will be run in-house on an as required basis.

Waste disposal

Only low activity radioactive material can be disposed of through the University's hazardous waste disposal service. To meet this "low level" requirement the specific activity of material must be below 100 Bq/gm. Requests for radioactive waste disposal can be made through Campus Assist. Click here for details of the collection schedule and links to the manifest template. An additional <100Bq/gm Clearance form must be completed and accompany the request.

Radioactive waste that does not meet the <100Bq/gm requirement must be stored until it decays to that level. Isotopes such as P-32, S-35 & I-125 may require storage for up to a year until it decays to an acceptable level. Longer half-life isotopes such as H-3 & C-14 will not effectively decay and require long term storage.
In either situation it is the research group's responsibility to provide for the secure storage of this waste.

For new proposed research projects the amount of radioactive waste generated should be identified in a Radiation Project Clearance. If there is no disposal path for the radioactive waste generated, the project should be re-assessed with the aim of minimising the amount of waste generated.

Warning signs

Area hazard signs with a radiation warning symbol must be displayed at or near the entrance to radiation laboratories. A template for Authorised Only Entry signs and guidelines for its use are provided so that laboratories can design individual signs for their specific areas.

Relevant Standards

Under the Radiation Control legislation, certain conditions are attached to licences. The following Australian Standards are referred to in some conditions and as such compliance with the relevant sections is mandatory. The two Standards are:

Name Description
AS2243.4-1998: Safety in Laboratories - Part 4 - Ionizing Radiations Details general safety requirements for laboratories where sources of radiation are used or kept.
AS 2982:2010: Laboratory design & construction Details the design criteria for radioisotope laboratories.

These and other Standards can be accessed via the library online website.

Radiation & Laser Safety Contacts

Mr Felix Werner - Radiation and Laser Safety Officer for the University of Sydney

Radiation Safety Committee
Name Location
Professor Brendan Kennedy (Chair) Chemistry
Dr William Ryder Medical Radiation Sciences
Dr Robin Bell Veterinary Science
Dr Fanfan Zhou Pharmacy
Dr Nick Coleman Molecular Bioscience
Dr Darius Lane Pathology
Dr Ian Garthwaite Charles Perkins Centre
Mr Felix Werner (Secretary) Safety Health & Wellbeing
Local Radiation Safety Coordinators
Name Location
Dr Ian Garthwaite Charles Perkins Centre
Dr Nick Coleman Molecular Bioscience
Dr Robin Bell Veterinary Science
Dr Darius Lane Pathology
Dr Fanfan Zhou Pharmacy
Dr Elaine Ryan Health Sciences
Mr Michael Joseph Macleay Building
Dr Kong Li Blackburn Building
Assoc. Prof Vanessa Barrs Sydney Vet Hospital
Miss Kim Heasman Vet Science
Professor Rebecca Mason Anderson Stuart
Mr Adel Mitry Anderson Stuart
Mr Rajesh Bangur J L Shute Building
Assoc. Prof. Joe Khachan Physics
Ms Sarah Walsh Medical Foundation
Vacant Brain and Mind Centre
Vacant Biomed Building
other Radiation contacts
Name Location
Professor Steven Meikle Brain and Mind Centre
Assoc. Prof. Roger Fulton Brain and Mind Centre
Mr Marek Dolleiser Physics
Mr Antony Vuragu Agriculture - Narrabri
Local Laser Safety Officers
Name Location
Mr Ralf Wilson Physics
Dr Kapil Chauhan Civil Engineering

LASER SAFETY

Lasers are sources of non-ionising radiation, that can emit "light" in the visible, ultraviolet or infrared parts of the spectrum. They differ from other sources of light in that they produce a high intensity, well collimated, low divergence beam with little loss of power over long distances. Because of these properties, exposure to the direct, reflected or even scattered beam can result in serious damage to the eyes or skin.

In addition to the laser light hazard, high power research lasers can have associated hazards, such as high voltages, cryogenic coolants, production of toxic vapours and the risk of starting fires. The aim of this information is to provide guidance on eliminating the risks associated with the use of high power Class 3B & 4 lasers in the University and permit researchers to fulfil their WHS responsibilities.

This information applies to all users of Class 3B & 4 lasers in the University. Because of the diversity of laser applications used in research, the goal of this guide is to provide a framework for a laser safety program rather than prescriptive requirements. It is up to each research group to conduct individual risk assessments and develop safe operating procedures for their lasers.

Laser legislation

Unlike sources of ionising radiation, laser equipment is not regulated under Radiation Control Act and there is no regulatory requirement for users of high power research lasers to be licenced to use the equipment. However, safety requirements are enforceable under the general provisions of WHS legislation, which can call up any relevant Australian Standard on laser safety. The primary document is AS/NZS IEC 60825.14 Safety of Laser Products Part 14: A Users Guide.

Laser usage

The RSC requires all users of laser equipment to follow AS/NZS IEC 60825.14 and associated Laser Standards. This Standard uses a 3 stage process for assessing the risk and implementing control measures. Standards can be accessed through the library online website.

When assessing risks of working with research lasers, a Class 3B laser is potentially hazardous if either the direct or specularly reflected beam is viewed by the unprotected eye. Class 4 lasers can cause injury from exposure not only to the direct or specularly reflected beam but also from diffuse reflections. This must be kept in mind during the risk assessment and control measures process.

Laser pointers

Following an increasing amount of incidents involving the misuse of laser pointers in public areas, NSW legislation was implemented to control the use of laser pointers. Effective from December 2008, only laser products with a maximum power output of 1 milli-watt [mW] should be used as laser pointers. Laser pointers exceeding 1 mW require a Laser Pointer Permit from NSW Police.

The RSC therefore recommends that only laser pointers not exceeding 1mW should be used for teaching purposes. Pointers have their power output stated on the warning label. If a pointer has no classification or warning label, it should not be used.

The University Radiation Safety Officer further advises that any laser pointer with a power output exceeding 5mW MUST NOT be used in the classroom or lecture theatre. Many “green light” laser pointers are intended for use in astronomy and exceed the 5 mW level. The safety requirements for this class of laser can NOT be complied with in a lecture theatre situation.