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An Incident Examined – Fixed Radiation Gauge Disassembled

This story starts with Simon Booth from Radiation Services WA (RSWA for short) getting a request to assist with the replacement of a fixed radiation gauge which was being used for level detection on a minesite hopper.

Simon met at the client’s site with a Project Engineer to risk assess and scope the project. The Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) was not available to attend this meeting, and although requested, the client’s Radiation Management Plan (RMP) was not available for consideration either – red flag number one…  It was emphasized that, although it was possible to complete the project without the client’s RSO involvement or consideration of the RMP, we recommended against this approach.

The project proceeded – the good news is that although it went against RSWA recommendation and lacked any involvement from the client’s RSO, it was completed without any Health, Safety or Environment (HSE) issues being encountered.  The new fixed radiation gauge was installed without issue, audited for compliance (against Western Australia’s Compliance Testing Program) and handed over to the client, locked in an isolated state.

A number of days later, however, Simon received a phone call from the client’s RSO stating that the source mechanism of the fixed radiation gauge had been inadvertently damaged and removed from the device.  Initial incident response advice was provided to ensure that the situation was able to be placed under immediate control from a safety perspective and planned to visit the site, later that afternoon.

Upon arrival at site, the RSO was unavailable to assist (ironically, attending a Health & Safety planning day).  Information was obtained relating to events leading up to this incident by phone, and a plan was made for remediation of the situation.  The plan was then implemented smoothly and without issue.

On behalf of the client, Simon undertook an incident investigation and prepared an incident report.  This report was provided to the state radiation regulator, and the radiation device manufacturer.  The client’s RMP was updated, and a key outcome was that the device manufacturer made modifications to their design – in terms of the hierarchy of risk control, an engineered solution is always more robust than an administrative control.

Key Learning’s:

– RMP to be consulted every time radiation management processes are being implemented
– The RMP shall detail processes that require the involvement of the RSO
– Only trained and competent personnel are to deal with radiation devices, and within their level of authority
– Personnel must be familiar with radiation device manufacturer’s operation manuals and these directions must be adhered to at all times
– Radiation Services WA are always available to assist – our emergency number is +61 417 966 438.

We wanted to share these key learning’s with you about this incident so to inform, educate and we hope to prevent future repeat.  Please note, consideration should always take into account the procedures endorsed by your Responsible Person and the relevant regulatory body.

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