Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Managing radiation in NSW

Radiation accidents

The Radiation Control Act 1990 and the Radiation Control Regulation 2013external link impose certain responsibilities on employers regarding radiation accidents.

Employers must:

  1. report and investigate apparent radiation accidents within the specified time frames
  2. maintain a record of radiation accidents
  3. rectify faults or defects in radiation apparatus and inform anyone who may have been exposed to radiation as a result of these faults.

The EPA has prepared a Radiation Accident Notification form that employers can use to report in radiation accidents.

Definition of a 'radiation accident'

A radiation accident is to be treated as having occurred if there is an occurrence that involves:

(a) The unplanned or unexpected emission of radiation where it is likely that:

  • one or more persons have, or could have received an effective dose of radiation of at least:
    • 5 millisieverts for an occupationally exposed person, or
    • 1 milliseivert for any other person, or
  • the premises or environment may have become contaminated by radioactivity (see Section 21 of the Act, Decontamination and acquisition of premises).

Examples of this type of radiation accident are emissions due to spillage or leakage of a radioactive substance, or damage to a radiation apparatus.

(b) The misuse of radiation apparatus or maladministration of radioactive substances used for medical purposes, including:

  • administration of a radioactive substance for diagnostic purposes in a quantity of more than 50% greater than prescribed
  • administration of a radioactive substance for therapeutic purposes at an activity differing by more than 15% from that prescribed
  • administration of a therapeutic dose of radiation from radiation apparatus or a sealed radioactive source which differs by more than 10% from the total prescribed treatment dose
  • the administration of a dose of radiation for diagnostic and interventional purposes from a radiation apparatus that results in one or more persons receiving an effective dose of radiation equal to or in excess of 1 millisievert
  • unintended administration of radiation as the result of a malfunction of radiation apparatus
  • the administration of a radiation dose to the wrong patient or to the wrong part of a patient’s body
  • administration of a radiopharmaceutical other than as prescribed.

Duty to report and investigate apparent radiation accidents

As soon as it becomes apparent that a radiation accident has occurred, the person responsible for the regulated material must give written notice of the accident to the Chair of the EPA. The notice must be provided within the specified time frame and must include the following particulars:

  • within 48 hours of becoming aware of an apparent radiation accident (or immediately if it is likely that the premises or the environment may have become contaminated within the meaning of section 21 of the Act). Particulars of the accident must include, indicating as far as possible:
    • the place where it occurred
    • the period during which the emission of radiation was uncontrolled
    • the area over which any radioactive substances may have been dispersed
    • any steps taken to rectify the accident
    • any personal injury or exposure that may have resulted
  • within 10 days of becoming aware of an apparent radiation accident, particulars of the accident must include:
    • assessment of the radiation dose that any person may have received as a result of the accident.

The person responsible for reporting accidents must ensure that reports do not contain the personal identification of the patients or individuals involved. Whenever there is doubt as to whether an incident is a radiation accident, the best course of action is to report the incident to the EPA. To meet the reporting deadline of 48 hours you are encouraged to send the written notice to radiation@epa.nsw.gov.au

Register of accidents

A person responsible for regulated material must maintain a record of all radiation accidents and provide these records to the EPA if requested. Details recorded for each accident must include:

  • the place where the accident occurred
  • the period during which emission of radiation was uncontrolled
  • the name of any occupationally exposed person or other person present during the emission of radiation
  • an estimate of the radiation dose which any person may have received
  • details and results of any medical examinations undertaken as a result of the accident
  • particulars of the area over which any radioactive substances may have been dispersed
  • particulars of any steps taken to rectify the accident
  • the time at which the accident was reported to the employer
  • the probable cause of the accident
  • particulars of any investigations into the accident, including results of the investigations
  • details of any steps taken to reduce the risk of a similar accident in the future.

Faults or defects

On becoming aware that a fault may exist in any radiation apparatus or sealed source device, the person responsible for regulated material must:

  • immediately investigate the apparent fault
  • if necessary, remove, replace or repair the apparatus or sealed source device 
  • within seven days inform all persons who may have been exposed to radiation in excess of what they would have normally received from the fautless operating apparatus or sealed source device.

EPA assessment and action

The EPA may seek expert advice on any accident reported to it under these requirements, and may request additional information about the incident that may be necessary to form an opinion.

The EPA also has powers to take action or make directions to take action (orally or in writing), as it considers necessary to deal with:

  • dangerous or potentially dangerous situations, or
  • decontamination or acquisition of contaminated premises.

For further information, contact the EPA's Hazardous Materials, Chemicals and Radiation Section on (02) 9995 5959.

 

Page last updated: 17 July 2015