ISRI, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc., has declared June 15, 2016 as its Annual Safety Stand-Down Day. The organization is encouraging companies to shut down operations at least one hour during every shift to engage in safety education. Their website notes that “in the busy scrap recycling industry we see forklifts, skidsteers, trucks, railcars, and even customer vehicles moving through our facilities every day. Mobile equipment is the cause for more injuries and fatalities than any other source at scrap recycling facilities.”
This year’s focus is safety around mobile equipment, specifically identifying hazards, reducing risks, eliminating accidents, and saving lives. They advise that the safety education can be in any form, including employee training, management walk-around, toolbox talks by employees, presentations by equipment service providers, and/or any other effective safety training method. (Free resources are available at www.tinyurl.com/ISRIStandDown.)
This is a great opportunity to talk about the safe use of handheld x-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzers that are used for elemental analysis. X-ray fluorescence (XRF) is a non-destructive analytical technique used to determine the chemical composition of materials. These handheld analyzers are used extensively by scrap metal recyclers to identify the metal and alloys in the scrapyard, including identifying the existence of contaminants or hazardous elements. (They are also used in other industries, including manufacturing, mining, oil and gas operations, etc.)
Scrap metal operators use these XRF analyzers to verify elements of interest in virtually all types of metal alloys, from trace levels to commercially pure metals, and are capable of distinguishing alloy grades that are nearly identical in composition to one another. The instruments help positively identify numerous alloys at material transfer points and guarantee product quality, determine metal composition for accurate sorting, and identify tramp/trace elements.
Under conditions of normal use, operators of handheld XRF analyzers will receive only a very small fraction of regulatory safety limits for radiation exposure. Higher exposures are easily avoidable and unnecessary. During the analysis, the analyzer emits a directed radiation beam when the tube is energized (tube based instrument) or when the shutter is open (isotope based instrument). Reasonable effort should be made to maintain exposures to radiation as far below dose limits as is practical. This is known as the ALARA (As Low as Reasonably Achievable) principle. For any given source of radiation, three factors will help minimize your radiation exposure: time, distance, and shielding.
Here’s a list of precautions that we provide to our customers during Radiation Safety Training.
7 Safety Tips When Using Handheld XRF analyzers
- Provide radiation safety training to operators
- Never aim the device at yourself or others when the primary beam (x-ray on) lights are illuminated
- Never hold samples during analysis
- Be aware of primary beam indicator lights
- Handle and use with respect
- Store securely – obey local storage requirements
- If you have a Safety Emergency, notify your Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) and analyzer vendor
Editor’s Note: If you are a Thermo Fisher Scientific customer and have a safety emergency with your Thermo ScientificTM NitonTM handheld XRF analyzers, please call our service department at 800-875-1578 for further instructions.
This is just a summary of safety tips. Thermo Fisher Scientific offers free safety training for customers and prospective customers. We recommend that operators of handheld XRF analyzers receive radiation safety training prior to using the analyzer. Safety training may be required by state regulatory authorities as a condition of licensing/registration. Safety training courses can be completed online or at one of our scheduled instructor-led training sessions. The scheduled instructor-led trainings also include an operational training session.
For additional information, visit our XRF Radiation Safety Training website page.