Ergonomics and Radiation Exposure in a Nuclear Pharmacy

Research Trainee: Sandra Cole, MS, PhD Student in Occupational and Environmental Sciences at Purdue University

Faculty Researcher: James McGlothlin, MPH, PhD, CPE, Associate Professor of Health Sciences at Purdue University

Nuclear pharmacists working in a nuclear pharmacy are exposed daily to radiation to the body and hands. According to the National Commission on Radiation Protection, the dose limit to the hands is 500mSv in a year. Nuclear pharmacists generally stay below the limits but are still at risk for acute high exposures when accidents, such as spills occur, so there is a need to work to lower the potential daily exposures. In addition, because of the type of workstation the job uses, the risk of musculoskeletal injury is not minimal and needs to be examined for ways to lower the risk of musculoskeletal injury. The interplay between reducing radiation exposure and the ergonomic stresses of the body are complex and often involve a conflict between best ergonomic practices and the best way to protect the worker from radiation exposure.

Video cameras together with real-time chemical detectors have been used to assess exposure to chemicals and for assessment of stresses the worker’s body undergoes on the job. These systems allow the simultaneous numerical measurements evaluation of risks and exposures with specific tasks that create higher exposures as well as identifying tasks that may needlessly increase exposure and risk.

A pilot project will conduct an assessment of ergonomics and radiation exposure in a nuclear pharmacy teaching laboratory using a combined audiovisual and extremity dose monitoring software tool for real-time radiation monitoring. This technology has the potential in a variety of areas in nuclear medicine related to both worker safety and patient safety, including the identification of tasks with high radiation exposure and high risk of musculoskeletal injury, taking into account the anthropometric variability in individuals working at the same workstation. In addition, it has potential in the training of new and experienced nuclear pharmacists in the proper techniques when handling radiopharmaceuticals. The expected outcome will be insight into work practices that will decrease radiation exposure and risk of musculoskeletal disorders leading to greater productivity of the worker.


Publications resulting from this project:
McGlothlin JD, Cole SS. Real-Time Exposure Assessment and Job Analysis Techniques to Solve Hazardous Workplace Exposures. In: Bhattacharya A, McGlothlin JD, eds. Occupational Ergonomics: Theory and Applications. 2nd ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2012:957-996.

McGlothlin JD, Xu F, Cole SS. Real-Time Assessment of Air Contaminants using Video Exposure Monitoring Methods and Techniques. In: Rose VE, Cohrssen B, eds. Patty’s Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology. 6th ed. Wiley: Hoboken, NJ; 2010.

Grants resulting from this project:
Centers for Pharmaceutical Processing (CPPR). Exposure, Risk Assessment, and Control of Antineoplastic Drugs using Video Exposure Monitoring (VEM) Methods. 2009-2011.

Research trainee’s current position:
Sandra Cole complete her PhD in 2012 and is now a Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Health Sciences at Purdue University.