Rolls Royce Marine Power Operations Ltd has been fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £176,500 in costs following the loss of a radioactive source at its plant in Derby.
The company, a subsidiary of Rolls Royce plc, which manufactures components for nuclear submarines, uses radioactive sources (containing Ytterbium -169) in their industrial radiography work to test that welds are perfect.
Leicester Crown Court was told that significant failings led to a radioactive source (a capsule which was the size of a small screw) being lost for approximately five hours at Derby’s Sinfin Lane site on 3rd March 2011.
This resulted in a number of workers at the site being exposed to high levels of gamma radiation, in some cases many times in excess of relevant legal dose limits.
It prompted a joint investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Environment Agency, who jointly prosecuted the company, after serious concerns about workers’ safety was identified.
The subsequent investigation by the HSE and the Environment Agency found the workers’ hand exposure to radiation was considerably in excess of the annual permitted dose of 500 millisieverts. In some cases it was exceeded by up to 32 times the permitted amount.
The investigation also found that the company failed to ensure that a suitable and sufficient risk assessment was in place for the gamma radiography work carried out on site.
Rolls Royce Marine Power Operations Ltd, of Moor Lane, Derby, admitted to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, Regulation 3(1)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, Regulation 11 of the Ionising Radiation Regulations 1999 and three counts of breaching Regulation 38(2) of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010.
Speaking after the hearing, David Orr, HSE’s specialist inspector of radiation, said: “Industrial radiography carries a greater risk of radiation exposure compared to other industrial uses of radioactive sources by nature of the very high activity sources used.
“HSE expects companies carrying out such work to have robust safety systems and procedures in place to protect employees during normal work and following a radiation accident such as the detachment of the radioactive source.”
Mark Haslam, Area Environment Manager for the Environment Agency, said: “For us, the most important thing is that the company has learnt the lessons from this and put improvements in place to ensure this does not happen again.”
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