October 1994

Commissioning Surveys

Researchers needing another room in which to use radioactive materials must notify the Radiation Safety Office BEFORE they begin to use radioactive materials in that room. We will come out and commission the room at that time.

Room commission involves primarily a check of the room's baseline survey. Sometimes chemical residues, such as cleaning solutions or manufacturing residues, can react with the scintillation fluid used in a survey and look like radioactive contamination. We also look at the labeling of work areas and the general room postings.

The Radiation Safety Office needs this data to update your information in our records so that it accurately reflects your research areas. If you have any questions or would like us to commission a room for you, please call the Radiation Safety Office (x2906).

Eye-Opening News -- Contact Lenses: Not for Labs

Contact lenses may be a convenience, but they should not be worn in the laboratory or in other areas where organic solvents or corrosive liquids are used.

Several situations can occur that makes wearing lenses dangerous: gases and vapors can be concentrated under contact lenses and cause permanent eye damage. Soft lenses will absorb solvent vapors, and other chemicals can remain in the lens for an extended period of time. Some solvents will even deteriorate the soft lens.

While hard contact lenses do not absorb organic vapors, they still pose a hazard in case of an accident. For example, a contact lens can bond to an eye following a caustic solution splash. Contacts trap solutions between the contact lens and the eye, and water properly used for washing cannot reach that area.

In the event of a chemical splash into an eye, it is nearly impossible to remove the contact lens to irrigate the eye because of involuntary spasms of the eyelid. Furthermore, anyone attempting to irrigate the eyes of an unconscious victim may not be aware of the contact lenses and hence not realize that they must be removed.

Wash the Eyewash

Rust and bacteria may build up in pipes that are seldom used. This is true for safety showers and eyewashes that are piped to the building water supply.

Remember to flush the eyewash regularly and to have the safety showers inspected often (do NOT check safety showers yourself). This will ensure a clean supply of water if it is needed in an emergency.

Seeing is Believing

Did you know that on the average there are 1000 eye injuries throughout the country each day? Unfortunately, 90% of all eye injuries are preventable with just minimal precautions.

We strongly encourage all laboratory workers to wear safety glasses while in the lab, especially when working on an experiment. Even if your job isn't very hazardous, eye injuries can result from a fellow worker's operation.

Blindness can result from almost any eye injury. BE PREPARED! Stores offer OSHA-approved safety glasses-clear wrap-around goggles that protect but do not impair vision in any way.


  1. Do not wear soft or hard contact lenses in work areas or laboratories where there are liquids or solutions which are injurious to the eye.
  2. Where eye protection is required, contact lenses are never substitutes for safety glasses or goggles. Neither, for that matter, are eyeglassess alone- always wear proper eye protection.


When its time for maintenance, repairs or machine set up, simply turning a machine off or unplugging it is often not enough. Many serious accidents happen when someone thought a machine or electricity was safely "off." Equipment that can store potential energy in any form that can cause individual harm, whether that energy is in the form of a taunt spring, stored electrical energy, or even hydraulic energy, must be locked and tagged out before any work is done on it.

"Lockout/Tagout" is a way to protect yourself and others by dispersing that energy and insuring that the energy source is not accidentally reconnected while the machine is being worked on.

"Lockout" means blocking energy from the power source. A key or lock is used to secure the energizing valve or switch in the "off" position. "Tagout" refers to placing a tag on the power source to warn others not to turn on the power.

Guaranteeing Machines Stay Off

Lockout/tagout ensures that machines and their power source remain temporarily "off." Without a lockout/tagout system, there is the possibility that a machine will suddenly start up. Then someone could be cut, hit, or crushed. There is serious danger of electrocution or release of hazardous chemicals.

To prevent start-ups, you need to identify a machine's power source: electricity, stored electricity (such as in a capacitor), stored pressure (such as compressed air), or stored mechanical energy (such as in a coiled spring).

Seven Steps for Lockout/Tagout

  1. Think, plan and check. Think through the entire procedure. Identify all parts of any systems that need to be shut down. Determine what switches, equipment, and people will be involved. Carefully plan how restarting will take place.
  2. Communicate. Let all those who need to know that a lockout/tagout procedure is taking place.
  3. Identify all appropriate power sources, whether near or far from the job site. Include electrical circuits, hydraulic and pneumatic systems, spring energy and gravity systems. Check to be sure that the switch is not under load.
  4. Neutralize all appropriate power at the source. Standing to the right of the switch (never in front), disconnect the electricity. Block moveable parts, and release or block spring energy. Drain or bleed hydraulic and pneumatic lines, and lower the suspended parts to rest positions.
  5. Lockout all power sources. Each worker should have a personal lock, labeled with his or her name and department. You may also use clips, chains and lockout boxes. All padlocks should identify the lockholder by name or identification number. This information should be either stamped on the body of the padlock or on a tag that is fastened to the hasp.
  6. Do a complete test. Double check all the steps above. Do a personal check: push start buttons, test circuits, and operate the valves to test the system.
  7. Tagout all power sources and machines. Tags should be used mainly for information; they are excellent additional safety precautions but are not sufficient in themselves for the lockout procedure. Tags should say "DANGER! EQUIPMENT LOCKED OUT" and should explain the reason for the lockout, your name, how to reach you, and the date and time of tagging. Tag machine controls, pressure lines, starter switches, and suspended parts. Tags should be fastened to the switch at the same time the lockout is put on and should be removed when the last padlock and the lockout is removed from the switch.

When Its Time To Restart

After the job is completed, follow the safety procedures you set up for restart. With all workers safe and equipment ready, its time to turn on the power.

If you have any questions concerning the lockout/tagout procedure, call the Department of Occupational and Environmental Safety at x2907.

CWRU's Low-level Radioactive Waste

Earlier this year, the Barnwell, South Carolina low-level radioactive waste site closed its doors to states outside its compact. This site was the last of its kind, and its termination has forced generators of such waste to store and treat waste at the source rather than shipping it several states away. CWRU responded early to this impending storage crisis, building a 3,000 sq. foot low level radioactive waste facility over two years ago.

The waste facility maintains both chemical and radioactive storage facilities, with the most stress being placed on managing radioactive waste. Waste technicians check material against tags, segregate it into correct drums, and then compact the waste into the drum, sealing and labeling it for storage. Radioactive dry solids are segregated by isotope with accurate estimates of activity to determine decay time needed. All wastes, therefore, must be carefully separated and labeled for pick-up, so that they may be packaged and stored properly.

While accurately labeling hazardous waste is important, it is equally important that ordinary, or non-hazardous waste, be labeled as such. Before wastes can be considered non-hazardous for disposal purposes, all labels or symbols indicating radioactive materials must be defaced. Although DOES double-checks materials before final disposal, such defacement will save time and energy when re-surveying decayed radioactive waste.

Furthermore, ordinary waste like bench paper used in experimentation often ends up unnecessarily labeled as radioactive waste. If a spill occurs, just cut out the portion of the bench paper that is contaminated. The rest can be thrown out as ordinary trash.

DOES has developed a comprehensive computer program that allows us to accurately track and measure waste. A spreadsheet is developed from all the log sheets accompanying waste that has been combined into one drum. Decay corrected activities and volumes are recorded. The spreadsheet lets DOES technicians know when each drum (of short-lived waste) can be re-surveyed. We are also better able to track waste inventory with this program.

Most universities and other low-level waste generators have responded to site shutdowns with similar facilities. Our waste facility, because of its design and timely construction, remains the forerunner of such facilities. State and federal regulatory officials have praised it; representatives from CWRU's law school have toured the facility.

The success of the waste facility in managing radioactive waste depends largely upon researchers on campus: since space is so limited, continued reduction of waste and proper segregation is imperative. Reducing waste at the source-each individual lab-is the best way to keep as much space as possible available.

How Much Space Is There?

The new low-level radioactive waste facility can hold 500 55-gallon drums. While this seems like a large amount, there are over 250 researchers on campus who generate low level radioactive waste.

This breaks down into a fairly small area available for each researcher's lab: only 14-foot cubic feet over the next five years.

That isn't much space!

New Personnel Training Procedure

The training procedure for new staff members needing safety orientation has been changed. New staff members will receive OSHA Right-to-Know, OSHA Lab Standard, and Bloodborne Pathogen Standard orientation at Human Resources the day they begin work.

Earlier in the day, all new staff members have an orientation at Human Resources. At that time, they will fill out surveys to determine which, if any, of the ensuing safety training sessions they will need. That afternoon, staff members for whom these safety sessions are applicable will receive further training. Faculty members should be aware that staff will miss work for part of that afternoon while they are in the safety session.

The new employee training sessions are scheduled as follows:

  • OSHA Lab Standard training (for all personnel involved in laboratory work) will be conducted every Monday in Adelbert Room 1 from 1:00 to 3:00.
  • Bloodborne Pathogen Standard training (for all personnel involved in the use or handling of human blood or human blood products) will be conducted every Monday in Adelbert Hall Room 2 from 3:00 to 4:00.
  • OSHA Right-To-Know training (for all personnel employed at Plant Services, Grounds, Materials Management and the Art Department) will be conducted every Monday in Adelbert Hall Room 2 from 1:00 to 2:30.

All sections will be taught by the Safety Services division of the Department of Occupational and Environmental Safety.

It is vital that all new staff be aware of any potential dangers they may face on the job, and we feel that this new schedule will help us meet this necessity when it is most important: before they start their jobs.

Also, any new employees already on staff who have not attended the necessary safety session are welcome to come to sessions at the above given times, or call our office to find out when the next one is being offered.

If you have any questions, please call DOES at 368.2907. The revised training schedule is given at the bottom of page two of this newsletter.

PLEASE NOTE: DOES will still conduct re-training sessions for those personnel already on staff. These times are listed as usual on page two. That procedure will not change.