Sellafield worker breaks back in 3m ladder fall

An employee of Sellafield Ltd, he was carrying out repair work in a low active chamber at the Magnox Reprocessing Facility at the Cumbrian site when the accident happened.

The maintenance fitter had been tasked with fixing a leaking pipeline within the reprocessing facility.

On 12 October 2021, the fitter and his colleague entered the chamber to carry out repair work, which was slippery due to the leaking acid.

The workers wearing Hazmat suits had to climb through pipework and up a scaffolding ladder to reach the leaking pipe, while carrying heavy equipment in challenging working conditions.

While attempting to climb down the ladder, one worker suffered a fall of around 3m sustaining fractures to his vertebrae. His injuries were described as life-changing with his mobility still significantly affected preventing him from returning to work.

In a prosecution brought by the Office for Nuclear Regulation at Carlisle Magistrates Court, Sellafield Ltd pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the health and safety of its employees, in relation to the risks arising while undertaking maintenance and repair work.

After the hearing, Paul Dicks, ONR’s Director of Regulation – Sellafield, said: “This accident was entirely avoidable. Nobody should go to work and not come home in a fit and healthy state.

“A thorough investigation by the Office for Nuclear Regulation identified multiple and significant failings by Sellafield Ltd during a prolonged period.

“There was a failure to adequately plan, organise and deliver this task to repair a leaking pipe.

“The risks were not adequately controlled and there were failures in the risk assessment.

“We concluded that there were several missed opportunities that could have prevented this accident occurring.”

ONR’s investigation revealed a series of significant failings to provide a safe system of work.

It was found the proposed repair method was repeatedly changed and the potential risks to workers were not suitably considered.

There was also a failure to properly consider how workers could carry a 20kg hydraulic clamp up and down a scaffolding while wearing the additional and bulky clothing needed to enter the chamber.


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