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Office of Radiation Safety reunites with EH&S

| 05 March 2003

The campus’s Office of Radiation Safety, which operated under the Vice Chancellor for Research for the last 10 years, reintegrated with the Office of Environment, Health, & Safety (EH&S) in Business and Administrative Services in January.

The radiation-safety group was separated from EH&S in 1993 to concentrate its efforts and resources on academic research. But over the past decade it became apparent that many of the services the two departments provided were duplicative, overlapping, or otherwise confusing to researchers, says EH&S director Mark Freiberg.

“It was an awkward arrangement,” he explains. “While the Office of Radiation Safety had oversight of radioactive-material safety in labs, EH&S provided oversight on other lab-safety and compliance issues, including the disposal of radioactive material.”

This bifurcation meant that each office conducted its own separate researcher trainings, laboratory inspections, and other oversight activities.
“It makes much more sense to have all activities related to research safety, including radiation, under the same roof,” says Freiberg. “This way, researchers get practical and consistent guidance on a broad range of complex regulations and issues from one source.”

The reintegration will not only make life easier for researchers — who will now deal with only one office instead of two — but will reduce confusion, enhance consistency, improve efficiency, and thus make the campus safer, he adds.

The EH&S Radiation Safety Team employs eight staff members. They provide safety and compliance support to hundreds of labs across campus in support of the work of nearly 1,500 researchers — including principal investigators, graduate and post-doctoral students, and staff.

“Our group provides extensive training on the storing and handling of radioactive materials, as well as guidance on regulatory compliance,” says Paul Lavely, EH&S associate director of radiation safety. “These functions can now be better integrated with other research-compliance programs managed by EH&S.”

The Radiation Safety Team also visits each lab about four times a year to help evaluate research safety and to ensure that researchers receive the compliance support they need. While there, they check to make sure that inventories of radioactive material are up-to-date and secure, and monitor the researchers and equipment.

Because its presence is easy to detect, radioactive material is often used as a tag to track biological processes during experiments, says Lavely. It is employed by researchers in a variety of disciplines, including chemistry, physics, and the biological sciences.

The reintegration of the radiation-safety function into EH&S is just one of many service enhancements the office is making to better support campus research. Other new programs include annual safety trainings for all new graduate-student researchers and an improved laboratory inspection program.