Emergency Spill Procedures

When a spill occurs, utmost effort should be directed at minimizing personnel exposure and contamination, and containing the spread of contamination. When spills are associated with other catastrophes such as fire or explosion, radiation hazards are exceeded by other hazards and the need to care immediately for the injured.

The Radiation Safety Office is available and on call 24 hours a day for emergency spills. In the event of a spill call:

(212) 305-0303 during business hours (9:am-5:pm)
After hours, call Public Safety at (212) 305-8100 or (212) 305-7979 and request Radiation Safety assistance.

Call the Radiation Safety Office whenever there is a spill. Let them evaluate the spill and decide whether the lab workers can conduct cleanup efforts. It may be necessary for the Radiation Safety Officer to notify and seek assistance from city or state radiation control officials.

The following procedures will be useful in the event of a spill or accident in the laboratory:


  • Save Lives
  • Control severe injuries
  • Prevent spread of major fire
  • Insure safety of personnel from radiation

Emergency Spill Procedures

  • Stop all work. Notify persons in the area that a spill has occurred
  • Prevent the spread of contamination by covering the spill with absorbent paper
  • Remove all personnel from immediate spill area to safe meeting area in or near the lab
  • Shut off ventilation, close windows and doors, turn off hoods if possible. Do not do this if radioactive gas is involved.
  • Check all personnel for skin and clothing contamination with an operable survey instrument
    • Remove contaminated clothing
    • Decontaminate personnel and resurvey (see decontamination procedures)
    • Survey spill area and mark contaminated areas with grease pencil or magic marker
  • Contact Radiation Safety


Begin facility decontamination efforts, starting with low-level contamination and working toward center or high contamination areas. Wear gloves and protective clothing. Clean up the spill using disposable gloves and absorbent paper with the clean side out and place in a plastic bag for transfer to a radioactive waste container. For surface decontamination use soap and water and cleansers appropriate to the compound spilled. Work slowly and deliberately, surveying continuously.

Perform a final survey to insure that the area has been successfully decontaminated.


Please view the radioactive spill response video for additional information about the above listed procedures.