A company in Berkshire has received a £16,000 fine for endangering an employee by exposing them to ionising radiation.
An employee at Gemini Technology (Reading) Limited faced a risk of being exposed to 500 milliSieverts (mSv) per hour while working on an irradiator at a calibration facility operated by the Ministry of Defence on 7th September 2018.
In the UK, the average person is exposed to a dose of 2.7 mSv every year. Doses exceeding 100 mSv can result in changes in red blood cells. Even small doses of radiation can lead to an increased risk of developing cancer in the long term.
Gemini Technology was summoned to the MOD site on Crescent Road, Gosport, to rectify an issue with the irradiator for which it served as the service agent. A high activity Caesium-137 source had become stuck in an unshielded position within the irradiator during an incident on 6th September 2018.
The remediation work performed by the Gemini Technology employee the following day involved removing the top of the machine’s shielded housing, elevating the radioactive source, and manually rotating a carousel containing several radioactive sources.
This exposed the Gemini Technology employee to dose rates of up to 500 mSv per hour.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that Gemini Technology had been dealing with ionising radiation for several years and was a well-known brand in its industry. However, the company had failed to formally consult a suitable radiation protection adviser, as mandated by the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017. The firm had not conducted appropriate and sufficient risk assessments of its work, and consequently, it had not identified and implemented adequate control measures to mitigate the risk of ionising radiation exposure, potentially endangering its employees.
HSE guidance can be accessed at: Health and Safety: Ionising Radiation (hse.gov.uk)
Gemini Technology (Reading) Limited, located at Wellington Industrial Estate, Basingstoke Road, Spencers Wood, Reading, Berkshire, admitted guilt to violating Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Regulation 9(1) of the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017. The company was fined £16,000 and instructed to pay £25,000 in costs at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court on 15th September 2023.
Karen Fuller, HSE specialist inspector of radiation, stated: “The Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 are in place to safeguard employees and others from the dangers of ionising radiation in the workplace.
“All companies working with ionising radiation must thoroughly assess the risks to their employees and others to ensure they take all necessary steps to limit exposure. Consulting a competent radiation protection adviser is essential for this purpose. Only then can they be confident that any exposure to ionising radiation is kept to a minimum, as far as is reasonably practicable.
“This situation could have been easily prevented by a proper evaluation of the risks involved, identification of the required control measures, and implementation of safe work practices. Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement measures against those who fail to meet the required standards.”