Hartlepool firm fined £30k after worker exposed to 46 times the legal radiation limit

Teesside Crown Court
Teesside Crown Court

A FIRM has been fined £30,000 for health and safety breaches after a worker was exposed to 46 times the legal radiation limit.

Mistras ETS, at Hartlepool’s Graythorp industrial estate, was sentenced at Teesside Crown Court after being prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive.

It related to an incident in September 2012 when a worker was accidentally zapped with an x-ray machine that he and a colleague were getting ready to use.

It caused his right hand to swell up and he suffered severe tissue damage to the middle, ring and little fingers.

The firm uses x-ray machines in radiation bays to test and look inside metallic structures for industry.

But when the injured worker was preparing the machine inside the bay, he was not aware the x-ray machine had become “energised” by someone else.
A senior radiographer was testing a portable warning system called a beacon, that are used when using x-rays off site.

He had plugged it into the control panel for the x-ray inside the bay when the injured worker went on a tea break.

It disabled some the bay’s safety systems including an amber warning light to say the x-ray was about to fire out radiation.

As a result, the worker, who had returned from his break and was holding the x-ray, was exposed to 23,000 MSV per year. The legal limit is 500 MSV per year.

An HSE investigation found there were no procedures in place to carry out the tests safely.

The firm admitted the breaches under the Health and Safety at Work Act and Ionising Radiation Regulations.

Tony Cornberg, mitigating for Mistras, said: “This was genuinely a one-off accident by a decent company. Really good work has been done putting it right.”

The company has already paid more than £16,000 legal costs to the HSE and was told to pay another £4,930.

HSE inspector Paul Wilson, 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.”

The judge, Recorder Bernard Gateshill, said: “This should never ever have happened. Such an accident was foreseeable.”