Employees were dismantling two transferred legacy assemblies when they noticed a small amount of mercury leaking from both assemblies. Two employees received skin exposure to mercury as a result. The mercury contained in the assemblies was unknown to both the transferring organization and the employees. Institutional processes and the procedure were followed but did not result in identification of the mercury inside the assemblies. These processes assume the transferring organization has appropriate knowledge of the items history and construction, etc. This assumption was not valid for these assemblies and may not be valid for some other legacy items. No one involved with the transfer had direct knowledge of the equipments construction or use. A consensus assumption was made that sampling for radiation and beryllium contamination was sufficient to characterize the equipment and clear the way for its transfer.
Lessons Learned: When items are transferred between owners, the transfer process assumes the donor can provide knowledge of the items history, construction, etc. to the recipient. This assumption may not be valid. A conservative approach and additional evaluations may be necessary before transfer to ensure that all hazards are accounted for and controlled.
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