In the wake of the recent radiation leak in New Delhi and the role of Delhi University in it, the Association of Indian University (AIU) has issued an advisory and urged all the country's universities to ensure proper safety measures in use and disposal of scientific equipment having radioactive elements.
The top representative body of Indian varsities has also decided to set up a permanent panel of experts that would monitor and ensure proper adherence to the laid down guidelines in this regard by India's higher education institutions.
The AIU advisory gains importance as it comes at a time when the special five-member panel of experts set up by the University's Grants Commission (UGC) on the instructions of the MHRD is still working to formulate the guidelines for procurement, usage, storage and disposal of radioactive and hazardous material in the labs of all Indian higher education institutions.
"We have issued the advisory to all our member 215 universities and Institutes urging them to implement the Lab Safety Guidelines with immediate affect. Through it we have also provided some of the internationally accepted and prescribes safety measures that they should follow to avoid any untoward incident," said Dr Tiwari.
In the advisory issued on May 13, 2010, Dr Tiwari has highlighted the hazardous effects of chemicals, radioactive materials, electrical systems and others being handled by students, technicians and faculty members in the laboratories.
"There are several guidelines at international as well as national levels for procurement, storage, handling, usage and thereafter disposal of such materials, which are Lab Safety Guidelines. However, sometimes due to negligence, the Lab Safety Guidelines are not properly followed and implemented and we have to face difficult situations resulting in loss of lives," the advisory adds pointing out the recent incident at Mayapuri in New Delhi due to Cobalt-60 (which was in a dead Equipment Gamma Irradiator) that initially belonged to "one of our Universities and resulted into a great controversy and loss of life and became a matter of national concern".
AIU has advised all faculty members, technical staff and students to follow Guidelines prescribed-already available and internationally followed in all research laboratories- for storage, usage, handling of such materials, chemicals, gases and also disposal of such hazardous chemicals, biochemical, microbial and radioactive wastes.
"All such guidelines should be strictly followed and monitored by Lab Safety Officers of respective departments regularly and reports be prepared periodically of each lab in order to make improvements in Lab Safety measures at par with international standards," the communiqué says.