Hartlepool-based Mistras ETS, which specialises in providing firms with industrial radiography services such as X-rays, has received a large fine following an event in which an employee sustained severe radiation burns at work.
Alarms Switched Off
The worker that suffered burns in the accident, who wishes to remain anonymous, was working at the firm's Graythorp Industrial Estate site in September 2012 using dangerous X-ray equipment in a designated radiation bay, when another group of workers was asked to use similar radiography equipment to test safety supplies at the same time.
Employees in the team who were checking the safety equipment developed their own method of testing the supplies, which involved switching off controls and alarms attached to the radiography bay.
This meant that during one test, the injured member of staff unknowingly remained in the bay while the X-ray was in use.
Severe Burn Injuries
Levels of radiation exposure experienced by the employee were significantly higher than those allowed by law, resulting in severe burn injuries including tissue damage being inflicted on three fingers of his right hand.
Since the work accident he has had to undergo an operation, but still experiences numbness in his fingers, coupled with occasional tingling in his hand.
Luckily, the man's burn injuries were not so severe as to stop him from returning to work.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was called in to investigate the cause of the work accident, with inspector Paul Wilson highlighting that the consequences could have been much worse.
He said, "The level of X-ray radiation to which this worker was exposed was capable of causing serious ill-health, including the potential for death if the X-rays had hit vital organs of his body."
Work Safety Procedures
The investigation carried out into the matter by the HSE found that the workers in the team testing the safety equipment had not received appropriate training for the task and Mistras ETS had not put any procedures in place to enable them to perform the work in a safe manner.
Failings by the firm led them to develop their own methods, which resulted in the vital safety devices being turned off.
Mr Wilson added, "This burn accident could have been easily prevented if Mistras ETS had ensured proper planning and control of the work."
Crown Court Fines
Earlier this week, Mistras ETS was prosecuted by the HSE at Teesside Crown Court on the grounds of serious safety failings.
The firm was ordered to pay £30,000 in fines, plus an additional £4,930 in legal costs, after it pleaded guilty to breaching several safety regulations.
It failed to comply with Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which refers to the responsibility of employers to ensure the welfare of their staff at work, as well as Regulation 11 of the Ionising Radiation Regulations 1999, which states that employees should not be exposed to excessive levels of radiation.
Mr Wilson concluded, "Industrial radiography is a valuable tool for industry as a non-invasive way of ensuring the integrity of plants and equipment. When managed properly, it is safe for those involved. However, where suitable precautions are not taken it can be very dangerous, with the potential for fatal consequences."