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Outcomes from the ARPANSA source inspection program: Laboratories using radioactive sources

Advisory note

Young female technician starting intently at a test tube she is holding, wearing protective quipment in a lab

Summary

  • Between April 2015 and late 2017 ARPANSA undertook 48 inspections of laboratories where ionising radiation sources are used. These resulted in one non-compliance and 107 areas for improvement.
  • The main areas for improvement (37%) related to inconsistencies or deficiencies in documentation, particularly plans and arrangements. Record keeping accounted for 9% while improvements relating to signage, training and radiation protection made up a further 38%. 
  • Licence holders using ionising radiation sources (i.e. radiation producing substances and apparatus) are required to comply with a practice-specific code or the requirements of Australian Standard AS 2243.4 Safety in laboratories Part 4: Ionizing radiations as a condition of licence.
  • AS 2243.4 includes a grading system that classifies a laboratory as low, medium or high level depending on the types and activities of the radioactive materials used and the type of operations performed.  The grading of the laboratory dictates the safety measures required.  Low level laboratories where unsealed sources are used are the most common type of laboratory among ARPANSA source licence holders. 
  • AS 2243.4 also covers use, storage and transport of radioactive material and disposal of radioactive waste.

Areas for improvement

Breakdown of areas for improvement in a pie chart

Figures relate to findings from inspections of laboratories between April 2015 and late 2017

Plans and arrangements for managing safety

The Regulations require licence holders to develop and implement plans and arrangements to manage radiation safety within the organisation. The complexity of plans and arrangements should be proportional to the hazard of the specific operations, conduct or dealing. ARPANSA’s Regulatory Guide PDF icon Regulatory Guide - Plans & arrangements for managing safety sets out eight key areas that a licence holder’s plan and arrangements should include. Plans and arrangements must be reviewed at least once every three years.

Australian Standard

The objective of AS 2243.4 is to promote safe working practices and prevent unnecessary exposure of persons working in laboratories using sources of ionising radiation. The standard specifies responsibilities for all persons dealing with radiation sources, general radiation protection principles, general laboratory design requirements, equipment and procedures necessary to limit exposure, storage, transport and disposal requirements, training, radiation incidents and accident and emergency procedures.

ARPANSA licence holders dealing with ionising radiation sources are required to comply with AS 2243.4 as a condition of licence.

Signage

The IR Standard states the requirements for signage in laboratories. For example, radiation warning signs need to be displayed at the entrance to each designated radiation area and all work benches where unsealed radioactive substances are handled must display a radiation symbol. Australian Standard AS1319 sets out the requirements for the design of safety signs intended for use in the occupational environment to regulate and warn of hazards and control safety behaviour.

Training

Before commencing work, any person working with radiation or radioactive material must be appropriately trained in accordance with the nature of the tasks. This requirement is also included as a condition of licence.

References

Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Regulations 2018

AS 2243.4-2018 Safety in laboratories Part 4: Ionizing radiations

AS 1319:1994 Safety signs for the occupational environment

ARPANSA Regulatory Guide, Plans & arrangement for managing safety, September 2017