A branch of the Rolls Royce company has been fined £200,000 after radioactive material went missing at a factory – resulting in a number of staff winning radiation compensation after being exposed to the substance.
Rolls Royce Marine Power Operations was also ordered to pay costs totalling £176,500 over the incident, in which a radioactive source used in the manufacture of components for nuclear submarines was lost for about five hours at its Sinfin Lane plant in Derby.
The substance is used to test the reliability of welds, but Leicester Crown Court was told that in an incident in March 2011, a small capsule used in the process which is the size of a screw became detached from its holder and fell out the guide tube into the item being tested.
The loss was discovered when welders working on the component spotted the capsule and removed it for examination. They then passed it around in a bid to determine what it was.
Radiographers returning for their next shift also directly handled the capsule, before correctly identifying it as a radioactive source.
The room was cleared, the capsule was recovered and the area was made safe.
However, a number of workers had already been exposed to high levels of gamma radiation – some cases many times in excess of legal dose limits.
Staff involved made a claim and the company paid radiation compensation. However, they were left with the worry about how the exposure may affect them.
Company at fault
The loss of the source was not detected by safety features or by the radiographer in charge of the work.
The joint Health and Safety Executive and Environment Agency investigation, which led to charges being filed against Rolls Royce, also found the company failed to ensure a suitable and sufficient risk assessment was in place for the radiography work.
Rolls Royce Marine Power Operations, of Moor Lane, Derby, pleaded guilty to breaching Health and Safety at Work Act regulations, Ionising Radiation Regulations and Environmental Permitting Regulations.
Date Published: October 7, 2014
Author: David Brown