Radiation Safety Frequently Asked Questions 

Radiation Program- Frequently Asked Questions and their Answers


Question: I am interested in using radioactive materials for research at FIU. How can I do that?

Answer: Radioactive materials at FIU are used under a radioactive material license issued by the Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Radiation Control. To use radioactive materials at FIU you must be an authorized user for radioactive materials or work under the supervision an authorized user, in a lab authorized for radioactive work.  

Question: What do I need to become an authorized user?
Answer: The FIU Radiation Safety Manual (April 2005) and EH&S website (under radiation/laser) describe procedures for becoming an authorized user and for authorizing your lab for Rad work. You may also contact the Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) at the FIU extension X70489/72621 for answers to any questions with radiation program.
In short

  • Submit properly completed application package to the RSO (giving details of the isotopes, radioactivity, protocol for use, lab location and floor plan, and security and access control) along with copy of your resume, training and experience with radiation, and copies of the training certificates.
  • Complete FIU radiation safety training and submit copy of the training certificate.   
  • The RSO will review the application package and forward to the FIU Radiation Control Committee (RRC) for review and approval.
  • The Committee will evaluate the application, may request for additional information or request for a meeting with the Committee.
  • The Committee may approve your authorization and you will be notified.

Question: What is the Radiation Control Committee (RCC)?

Answer: The RCC is the governing body for all aspects of radiation protection within the University. The RCC ensures that the possession, use and disposition of radiation sources, including sealed sources in instruments and generally licensed radioactive materials, by University personnel at Florida International University comply with pertinent federal and state regulations and with the specific conditions of licenses issued to the University. The RCC is comprised of the radiation safety officer, a representative of management, departmental representatives and persons trained and experienced in the safe use of radioactive materials. One of the requirements for maintaining FIU’s Broad Scope License is the establishment of RCC.

Question: How long does it takes to be become an authorized user?
Answer: If the documents submitted to the RSO are complete and appropriate, authorization takes 2-4 weeks.

Question: Can an authorized user be authorized to work with any radioactive material and with any radioactivity? 
Answer: No, the authorized user will be authorized to work with certain isotopes and certain radioactivity. The total authorized use radioactivity for FIU radiation workers for any isotope shall not exceed the limit on the FIU radioactive material license.

Question: I will be working under the supervision of an authorized user. I need to use a radioisotope for which he/she is not authorized. How can I do that?
Answer: Your supervisor must be authorized for the radioisotope he/she plans to use. As described above, he/she should submit application package to the RSO for authorization for new isotopes or for authorization for increased quantity of the authorized radioisotopes.

Question: I am a student at FIU. Should the authorized user for the lab where I work be physically present all time when I use radioactive materials? 
Answer: Your supervisor need not be present all time, but he/she must be on campus to guide you, if something goes wrong. Alternate arrangement can be made with another authorized user of the same type of material or with the RSO.
Question: I am a student at FIU. My supervisor has to be away for urgent work and I need to complete a time bound project. Can I work with radioactive materials in his/her absence? 
Answer: There may be options. However, you must discuss the problem with the RSO. He/she may authorize you for a limited time, if you are able to demonstrate that you can handle radioactive materials safely and he/she or another authorized user is available to provide required supervision.

Question: Do I need to complete any formal training before working with radioactive materials? 
Answer: Yes, you need to complete an on-line radiation safety training and then hands-on radiation safety training (classroom training). You must achieve a passing grade on a test.

Question: Is there any refresher training that a radiation worker should complete? 
Answer: Yes, all radiation workers need to complete refresher training every 3 years. The On-line radiation safety training serves the purpose of refresher training and can be taken from any computer with internet connection. Please visit EH&S web site and request for ID and password. http://www.fiuehs.com/online_training/

Question: Is there any training for non radiation workers who enter radiological labs?Answer: Yes, the Radiation Safety Office offers radiation awareness training to those persons (students, custodians, Facilities Management staff, property control, UTS, safety inspectors, public safety, etc.) who are not radiation workers but enter radiological labs. Please contact the RSO at 70489/72621.

Question: Is there any radiation safety training for X-ray machines, analytical devices (e.g., x-ray diffraction, electron microscope) 
Answer: Yes, contact the RSO? As with the training for radiation workers using radioactive materials, this training has two parts: 1) on-line radiation safety training which is same for all radiation workers and 2) X-ray Radiation Safety training. This is class room training.

Question: Do the radiation workers wear any badges for monitoring their exposure to radiation? 
Answer: Yes, all radiation workers, except for those who work with Hydrogen 3, Carbon 14 and Sulfur 35, wear Thermoluminescent (TLD) radiation monitoring badges that record their exposures to radiation. The processing of the badges gives information on the exposures received by users.

Question: What types of radiation exposure monitoring badges are used at FIU? 
Answer: Two types of badges: whole body badges (worn for 3 months) and ring badges (worn for 1 month). Ring badges are used when the exposure to hand can be high. These badges are distributed by the RSO and are returned to him/her after the specified use period. The RSO sends to the dosimetry service company for evaluation of the exposures received. The RSO provides report of exposures to each radiation worker annually (or earlier if their exposure exceeds 100 mrem).

Question: What are the limits of annual exposures of FIU adult radiation workers? 
Answer: 1,000 mrem for the whole body; 3,000 mrem to the eye lens; 12,000 mrem to skin or extremity (e.g., fingers). mrem is unit of dose equivalent. For declared pregnant women limits are lower. Please see the Radiation safety Manual: Radiation Safety Manual.pdf

Question: What are the limits of annual exposures of minors or members of the public? 
Answer:  100 mrem.

Question: Are there any special limits of annual exposures for pregnant women workers? 
Answer:  Yes, for “declared pregnant women” (a woman who has voluntarily informed (Pregnancy Declaration) in writing of her pregnancy and the anticipated date of delivery):

  • 500 mrem during the entire pregnancy
  • 50 mrem during any one month

Question: How can I obtain a TLD badge? 
Answer: Individuals who have completed radiation safety training and will be working with radioactive materials (or X- rays) as authorized users or under the supervision of an authorized user will be issued TLD badges. They are required to complete the radiation badge request form, obtain signature of their supervisor and submit to the RSO. The form can be down loaded from EH&S website: Radiation Dosimeter Application.pdf 
Question: What is procedure for ordering radioisotopes? 
Answer: Complete the requisition form, obtain the signature of the authorized user and submit to the RSO for approval. 
Radioactive Materials Ordering Procedure 

The RSO approves the purchase, writes the EH&S delivery address and forwards to the purchasing department with a copy to the authorized user.

Question: Does the authorized user receive the radioisotope directly from the company? 
Answer: No, the radioisotope is first received by the RSO. Then the RSO calls the user for his/her availability and delivers the isotope to the lab. The RSO also delivers the “Radioactive Material Use Record” form and obtains signature to record delivery of the isotope and the use form.

Question: Do I need to obtain approval from the RSO for purchase of X-ray equipment?
Answer: Yes, purchase of all radiation producing devices must be approved by the RSO.
Please submit application for purchase of X-ray machine: 
Application for Purchase of Radiation Machine (X-Ray).pdf

Question: Are any surveys required when an isotope is received? 
Answer: Yes, within 3 hours after the receipt of the isotope the RSO measures dose rate on the external surface of the package and collects wipes to determine removable contamination. After the isotope is delivered to the lab, the authorized user performs radiation level and contamination check on source vial and the internal packing.

Question: Are any records of surveys maintained? 
Answer: Yes, for 3 years.

Question: How often are the lab surveys to be performed? 
Answer: Authorized user surveys the lab be done on the day of receipt of the isotope. Even if the isotope is not used the surveys must be conducted on the day of receipt of the isotope.  This survey is with a survey meter. If the meter is not suitable for the radiation to be detected (e.g., Hydrogen 3) wipe should be collected and counted in a suitable instrument (e.g., liquid scintillation counter). The surveys must also be done on each day of use of the isotope. A weekly wipe test shall be also completed of all area where radioactive materials are used.

Question: Is radiation survey required if no radioactive material is received or used? 
Answer: Yes, a weekly survey with a meter is required of all areas where radioactive materials or radioactive waste are stored. Weekly wipe survey for removable contamination shall be completed during weeks of use for all areas where radioactive materials or waste are routinely used or stored.

Question: Is weekly radiation survey required if the authorized user is on vacation or is out of town on official duty and there is no other radiation worker in the lab? 
Answer: Yes, the Bureau of Radiation Control requires it. Designate an alternate authorized user to conduct surveys during your absence. Failure to do so is a violation that could result in suspension of the privilege to use radioactive materials.

Question: Do the authorized users maintain survey records? 
Answer: Yes, survey report must be prepared and maintained for 3 years. The report should contain date of survey, survey data, background, action levels, details of the survey meter (manufacturer, model and serial number), name and signature of the surveyor. The RSO checks for these records at the time of inspection. So do inspectors from the Department of Health.

Question: Do radiation labs require any special posting? 
Answer: Yes, lab entrance door shall be posted with radiation signs and symbols with warning/caution words “Radioactive Materials.” Also posted on the door will be: “Notice to Employees”, “Notification to the State for Accident, Loss of Radioactive Material”, “Hazard index”, “Emergency Contact List.”  Areas where radioactive materials are used should also be labeled with “Radioactive Materials.”

Question: Does the radiation lab require any special facility or equipment? 
Answer: Yes, all radiological labs in which radioactive materials in unsealed form are used should be equipped with: fume hood of proper flow rate (80-120 LFM), shielding appropriate for radiation, plastic backed absorbent paper for lining radioactive work surfaces, labeled container for storage of radioactive waste, radiation survey instrument, wipe papers, etc.

Question: How do I dispose of radioactive waste? 
Answer: Store radioactive waste streams separately- liquid, solid, short half-life (half-life 90 days or less), long-lived (half-life > 90 days), and mixed waste (hazardous plus radioactive). Store separately waste for each radionuclide. Label the container surface with radioactive material tag giving information regarding the waste (radionuclide, radioactivity, date, lab location, etc.). There should be no radiation tag inside the container. Download Radioactive Waste Pick up” form from EH&S website:
 Request for Radioactive Waste Pick Up.pdf

Complete the form and forward to the RSO. The RSO will schedule the pick up.

Question: What do I need to do to transfer radioactive materials to someone within FIU? 
Answer: Ensure that the authorized user / PI is authorized to use the radionuclide. Call the RSO. The RSO will confirm that the authorized user can receive the radioactive material. The RSO will deliver the radioactive material to his/her lab.

Question: What is the proper procedure for closing out a laboratory if it is being moved/ vacated?

Answer: This information is provided in the Laboratory “Relocation Guide” Lab_Relocation_Procedure.pdf

  • Transfer unused radioactive material to an authorized user through the RSO or prepare materials for disposal as radioactive waste.
  • Complete radioactive material/waste pickup request form, if necessary.
  • Survey for radioactive contamination. Decontaminate, if necessary.
  • Remove or deface all radiation symbols inside the laboratory.
  • Remove postings from the lab door.
  • Contact the RSO to schedule a final survey and closeout.

Question: An authorized wants to relocate to a new location. What is he/she required to do? 
Answer: The new lab must be authorized for radioactive material use. See procedure above for authorizing a radiation lab.

Question: How do I ship radioactive materials to someone outside the FIU?  
Answer: Call the RSO (305 348 0489/2621) and provide details of radionuclide(s) you wish to ship, the radioactivity, the physical form and where it will be shipped. You must provide a copy of the recipient's radioactive materials license to ensure that the recipient is authorized by license to receive the radioactive material and the radioactivity in question.  Contact the RSO for the right type of package, markings, labels, and the shipping papers for the package. Provide a copy of the shipping papers to the RSO.

Question: Which survey meter should I buy for my lab surveys? 
Answer: The type of survey meter required depends on the type of radiation and its energy. For example:

  • For alpha radiation you may use a ZnS (Ag) detector.
  • For low energy beta radiation (H-3, C-14, S-35), you will need a  liquid scintillation counter
  • For other high energy (> 0.5 MeV) beta radiation, you may use pancake G-M or plastic scintillation detector
  • For gamma radiation, use a NaI(Tl)) or G-M detector
  • For low energy gamma radiation, use a thin NaI(Tl)) or G-M detector

Question: How often are the survey meters to be calibrated? 
Answer: All survey meter are to be calibrated annually. The Radiation Safety Office collects the survey meters from the labs and hands over to the calibration company. The calibration company performs the calibration and affixes a sticker on the survey meter showing date of calibration and the due date for calibration.

Question: How can I get my survey meter calibrated?
Answer: The Radiation Safety Office manages contract for calibration of survey instruments used in the Radiation Protection Program. The calibration company will calibrate your meter. The researchers reimburse EH&S for the cost of this service. Contact the RSO one month before the calibration due date. If your survey meter is of special type which can not be calibrated by the company on contract for calibration, then special arrangements for calibration are required and a longer lead time is required.

Question: What should I do to be authorized to administer radioactive materials to animals? 
Answer: Contact the RSO. You need authorization from the RCC and institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). 
Question: Where do I get radioactive material/waste tags / labels?
Answer: You need to purchase these from Lab safety, Fisher or RSO, Inc. Contact the RSO (X70489) for help.
Question: How do I determine radioactivity in the liquid waste? 
Answer: The best method to determine the activity in your liquid wastes is to count a sample of the liquid waste in a liquid scintillation counter (LSC) of known counting efficiency for the type of radiation in the sample. Convert the counts per minute (cpm) to disintegrations per minute (dpm) by dividing cpm with the fractional counting efficiency factor for the radionuclide. To convert the dpm to µCi divide the disintegrations per minute by 2.22 × 106 dpm/µCi.

Another method is to assume all radioactive materials used in the experiment to be liquid waste. Remember this is the maximum activity in the liquid waste. As you add the liquid to the container, keep track of the amount and total the quantities before disposal.

If you are able to determine the activity going to a stream other than liquid, then the activity in the liquid waste is difference between the activity used and the activity going to the stream. 
Question: How do I determine the radioactivity in the dry waste? 
Answer: Unfortunately, there is no convenient way to determine radioactivity in the dry waste. The best way is to keep track of the radioactivity in your experiments. If you used the best method to determine radioactivity in the liquid waste, the remainder will be in the dry waste.

Question:  Can I work with radiation producing equipment or radioactive material if I am pregnant? 
Answer: Generally, yes. The vast majority of work performed at FIU with radioactive materials can continue without modification during pregnancy. However, formal notification and evaluation is required .Once a person officially informs her employer in writing of her pregnancy, new dose limits apply and the person must obtain a second dosimeter. This second badge is worn at the waist to monitor the exposure to the unborn child. Regulations require that the dose for the 9 months of pregnancy DO NOT exceed 500 mrem. Also dose limit in any month must not exceed 50 mrem.

Question: What is ALARA?

Answer: ALARA is a philosophy of excellence that translates into practice one's day-to-day work with radioactive materials. It embodies all practices that researchers employ to keep radiation exposures As Low As Reasonably Achievable.

Question: Does lab equipment require decontamination prior to disposal, repair or servicing?

Answer: Yes, there are strict controls on the disposal of radioactive material. Equipment for disposal must be decontaminated, and surveyed by the RSO prior to release for disposal. Equipment, which contains radioactive material or which may be contaminated with radioactive material, that needs repair or service by FIU repair personnel or outside vendors must be released by the RSO before any such work is done. Equipment that is to be surplussed also requires a release from the RSO prior to pick up by property control personnel. Please check appropriate box in the property transfer/pick up form. Given below is link to the property transfer/pick up form:


Question: How do I secure my radioactive materials?

Answer: Sources of radiation shall be secured against unauthorized removal from the place of storage by using two independent physical controls (locking mechanisms).  Check integrity of physical barriers and security controls (e.g. locks, source safes, etc).

  • Lock laboratory doors when the laboratory is unattended.
  • Keep stock materials in a designated storage location locked.
  • Access control procedures must be implemented when using large quantities of radioactive materials.
  • Establish a checkout procedure whereby persons authorized to use them sign out stock materials, record the use on inventory forms or other written documents, and sign the remaining stock back in immediately at the conclusion of the experiment.
  • Implement "line-of-site" rules. If you are working where you can't see your stock material, put it away.

Question: For minor repair work in a radiological laboratory is there any special form which I should complete?

Answer: Yes, for minor repairs such as changing bulbs, plumbing concerns contact Work Management Center (74600 for UP and 65567 for BBC). You must identify hazards in your lab such as radioactive materials, laser devices, biohazardous materials, etc., and a primary and alternate contact for the authorized users. If your labs will be renovated or remodeled you will be required to complete “Minor project Request Form”


Check all applicable box(es) for the hazard (radiation, laser, carcinogens, select agents, etc.).

Question: Is there FIU policy for the security of labs with radioactive materials?

Answer: Yes, “Security in laboratories with Special Hazards”- Policy. Special Hazards Materials include, but are not limited to, radioactive materials, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) controlled substances, select agents, carcinogenic and explosive materials, infectious materials, and laser devices, and any other hazardous materials, the purchase, handling, storage or transfer and disposal of which is regulated by federal, state, or local laws. The policy has 3 important aspects namely responsibility, accountability and physical safeguards regarding materials with special hazards.
Question: What should I do if radioactive materials under my control are lost or stolen?


  • As soon as you are aware/ suspect contact the Public Safety Department to report theft.
  • Within 24 hours of becoming aware, contact the RSO regarding any lost or stolen materials and provide a written statement regarding theft or loss.
  • The RSO will conduct inquiry into the matter and will inform Bureau of Radiation Control, as appropriate.


Question: What are the methods for controlling exposures?
Answer: Do as directed below:

  • Radioactive material- work with the smallest radioactivity possible
  • Contamination- prevent contamination
  • Time- work with radioactive materials for least amount of time possible
  • Distance- stay as far as possible from sources of radiation
  • Shielding- shield the source of radiation

Question: What type of shielding is required?


  • For high energy beta emitters such as P-32, use a material with a low atomic number such as Plexiglas, ~ 5 mm thick. A higher atomic number material such as lead produces Bremsstahlung radiation (X-rays), which may under some conditions, may result in more radiation exposure to individuals than they would have received without any shielding.
  • For gamma rays or X-rays, a high atomic number material such as lead is preferred for shielding.
  • For alpha, and low energy beta emitters such as H-3, C-14, or S-35, no shielding other than gloves and lab coat, is necessary.

Question: What type of records should I maintain? 
Answer: Each laboratory or closely related group of laboratories must maintain an organized notebook (3-ring binder) containing the following information:

  • Radioactive material use record (radioisotope inventory- radioisotope, date, activity, received, used, remaining, disposed)
  • Results of required radiation surveys for contamination and exposure rates (survey meter readings and wipe tests)
  • Radiation training documentation
  • Documentation of corrective actions taken for any incident/ accident that involves a spill or release of a gas, powder, or volatile material
  • Records of personnel dosimetry
  • Records of any bioassay performed
  • The FIU Radiation Protection Manual- the most recent edition
  • Data necessary to demonstrate compliance with any special requirements identified in the specific authorization

Failure to maintain and make these records available for inspection will require a Corrective Action Plan.
Question: What should I do in case of spill of a radioactive solution? 
Answer: Follow spill control procedure in Radiation Protection Manual. Contain the spill. Contact the RSO.

Question: Can authorization for radioactive materials be suspended or revoked? 
Answer: Yes. FIU RCC has approved point system to support compliance efforts. Authorized users may accumulate points for various acts of non-compliances, in their labs. If authorized users accumulate certain number of points, their privileges to work with the radioactive materials may be withdrawn.

An authorized user may also be granted temporary suspension of authorization when: 1) he/she submits a request for suspension to the RSO and 2) the RSO confirms that there are no radioactive materials/waste in the lab and that the lab can be released for unrestricted use.  
Question: Can temporarily suspended authorization be reinstated?
Answer: Yes, temporarily suspended authorized user status can be reinstated. The reinstatement of authorization will require completion of all training requirements prior to approval.  Reinstatement of authorization subsequent to revocation for non-compliance will require additional steps including meeting with the RCC.