Informa Markets

Author Bio ▼

Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
December 14, 2009

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources


Sellafield: Contractors were exposed to radioactive dust

Nuclear operator Sellafield Ltd has been fined £75,000 after two workers inhaled radioactive dust at its site in Cumbria.

Carlisle Crown Court heard that the incident took place on 11 July 2007 during the renovation of a room formerly used to sort and monitor materials contaminated with plutonium. The room was being refurbished to create additional office space at the site.

The room had a patch of concrete floor, which was believed to have been contaminated by a spillage of radioactive material several years earlier. Two contractors were drilling into the floor using a diamond-cutting drill, so that the contaminated area could be removed. They became contaminated with plutonium by the dust that was created by the drilling.

A contamination alarm activated when the dust was created and the work stopped immediately. One of the workers had substantial dust on his PVC suit, and inhaled some of the toxic particles when he removed his respirator while undressing. Both contractors were found to have received a significant radiation dose, but this fell beneath the annual dose limits and had no immediate impact on their health.

HSE superintending nuclear inspector, Mark Bassett, noted that the company should have erected a ventilation tent, and ensured that contractors wore pressurised suits rather. He said: “Although the radiation doses in this case were below the statutory dose limits, they could potentially have been higher – they should have been zero.

“The incident highlights the importance of Sellafield Ltd following its own arrangements for protecting workers, when undertaking potentially hazardous work with the risk of exposure to radiation. Sellafield should have properly assessed those risks, and then appropriately planned, organised, and carried out the work.”

Sellafield appeared in court on 4 December and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. The company was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £26,100.

A Sellafield spokesperson said: “This incident happened more than a year before Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) took over control of Sellafield Ltd (in November 2008), bringing with them a wealth of experience and expertise from around the globe. Since arriving on site, the new management team has introduced a range of initiatives aimed at improving safety and performance.

Approaches to managing the risks associated Musculoskeletal disorders

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Matt Birtles, Principal Ergonomics Consultant at HSE’s Science and Research Centre, about the different approaches to managing the risks associated with Musculoskeletal disorders.

Matt, an ergonomics and human factors expert, shares his thoughts on why MSDs are important, the various prevalent rates across the UK, what you can do within your own organisation and the Risk Management process surrounding MSD’s.

Related Topics

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments