September 25, 2018

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Manufacturing safety: Atomic Weapons Establishment pleads guilty over health and safety failure

The organisation which manufactures and maintains the UK’s nuclear weapons has admitted failing to ensure the safety of its staff, a court has been told.

In June 2017, an electrician suffered burns to his arms while carrying out routine testing at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) in Berkshire.

Prosecuting, Craig Morris told Reading Magistrates’ court AWE had failed to “appreciate the risk of live working.”

Mr Morris said the injuries were “not as serious as they could have been.”

Donald Urquhart, ONR’s Deputy Chief Inspector and Director of Operating Facilities regulation, said: “ONR welcomes this guilty plea which recognises that, on this occasion, the Atomic Weapons Establishment fell short in its legal duty to protect the safety of one of its employees.

“As an independent regulator, ONR will hold licensees like AWE to account to secure worker and public safety.”

The site is responsible for making Britain’s Trident nuclear warheads and stores nuclear waste from Royal Navy submarines.

Assessment by The Office of the Nuclear Regulator (ONR) deemed the incident to be a conventional health and safety matter, with “no radiological risk to workers or the public.”

Lawyer for AWE PLC, James Maxwell-Scott, told the court that despite the nature of establishment where this happened, it “could have happened in any other institution.”

AWE will be sentenced on 9 November.

The company was previously fined £200,000 for a safety breach during a fire at its Berkshire site in 2010.

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