Technical Assistance Request, Authorization of Employee Eating and Drinking Areas in Labs at Veterans Administration Medical Center, Martinez, California

HPPOS-318 PDR-9306280312

See the memorandum from J. E. Glenn to R. J. Pate dated March 27, 1992.

This NMSS memo responds to a technical assistance request from Region V, dated January 17, 1992, regarding designation of two employee eating and drinking areas in research laboratories at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Martinez, California (VA-Martinez). Review of this issue reveals a number of health physics considerations. However, NMSS cannot justify an absolute requirement that all areas for eating and drinking be separated from use areas by physical barriers such as doors.

The eating and drinking areas may be authorized, provided the following radiation safety concerns are sufficiently addressed by VA-Martinez:

  1. The licensee must specify the typical procedures carried out, quantities involved, and radioactivity measured for each isotope in each lab. Large quantities of radioisotopes may cause greater health and safety concerns. For example, the procedures conducted in lab area 113A may involve the use of phosphorous-32 or iodine-125 in millicurie quantities which could result in considerable spread of contamination and could not be approved without a barrier such as a door.
  2. The licensee must develop sufficient safety measures to assure that there is no transfer of food, drink, or radioactive materials between the radioactive material use area and the eating area. For example, what measures will be taken to assure that employees remove their protective gloves and wash their hands before entering the eating area?
  3. The licensee must detail how the eating area will be separated from the working area and how the flow of radioactive material into the area will be restricted. For example, the area could be marked by tape and posted with signs, provided such notices are clearly visible to prevent inadvertent entry with radioactive material.
  4. The licensee must confirm that food, drink, or personal effects will not be stored with radioactive materials. Specifically, does the eating area designated in room 112A also serve as a radioactive storage area (is radioactive material stored in the freezer, refrigerator, or cabinet)?
  5. The licensee must designate one sink in each lab that will only be used for non-radioactive hand, utensil, and/or dish washing. The sink must be restricted from radioactive material and, if possible, should be in close proximity to the eating area. This sink should be included in the routine laboratory surveys.
  6. The licensee must address the frequency of radiation surveys and types of measurements to be made in each of the labs. Alternatively, the licensee may provide evidence that the existing frequency of scheduled surveys for each lab and corresponding air filtration systems will be effective in monitoring the safety of the designated eating areas. For example, one area of concern is whether wipe tests for removable contamination of tritium and carbon-14 will be performed at effective intervals in area 115A.
  7. The licensee must describe both initial and periodic training. The training must specifically inform employees of the restrictions in place and precautions to be followed. Both new and current laboratory personnel, including janitorial and other assisting staffs who have access to the laboratory, must receive training.
  8. The licensee must assure that entry and exit to the designated eating and drinking areas can be obtained without bringing food and drink through a radioactive materials use area. This appears to be a problem with room 112A.

The determination of the adequacy of the responses provided by VA-Martinez to authorize the two eating and drinking areas is the decision of the regional office.

Regulatory references: 10 CFR 20.1201, 10 CFR 20.1501

Subject codes: 5.0, 11.2

Applicability: All

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Tuesday, October 31, 2017