The operator of the Sellafield nuclear site has been fined £400,000 after a worker suffered life-changing back injuries when he fell three metres from a scaffolding ladder.
Sellafield Ltd, which is controlled by government agency the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, was given the fine after admitting a health and safety breach. It was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of nearly £30,000.
The worker involved had been asked to fix a leaking pipeline in a chamber at the Magnox Reprocessing Facility at the Cumbrian site when the accident happened in October 2021. However, the chamber was slippery due to leaking acid. As the worker tried to leave the chamber down a scaffolding ladder, he fell around three metres, according to the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), which brought the prosecution after an investigation.
He sustained fractures to his vertebrae, resulting in life-changing injuries, the ONR said. His mobility is still significantly affected and he has yet to return to work, it added.
Sellafield Ltd pleaded guilty at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court to failing to ensure the health and safety of its employee under Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Paul Dicks, ONR’s director of regulation for the Sellafield, Decommissioning Fuel and Waste division, said: “We welcome the outcome, which recognises that Sellafield Ltd fell short in its duty to protect a worker. This accident was entirely avoidable. Nobody should go to work and not come home in a fit and healthy state.”
He added: “We concluded that there were several missed opportunities that could have prevented this accident occurring.”
Sellafield Ltd chief executive Martin Chown said: “We deeply regret this incident, and we acknowledge that on this occasion we fell short in our legal duty to protect the safety of our employee.
“We recognise the seriousness of this matter, as reflected in our guilty plea, and our full cooperation with ONR, including sharing the findings of our internal investigation.”
Chown said Sellafield has incorporated lessons from the incident to improve its performance and prevent a recurrence.
He added: “We will continue to work hard to ensure that safety and security at Sellafield is the very best it can be.”