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AWE pleads guilty to Health and Safety offence

The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) has today been fined £660,000 after pleading guilty to an offence under Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act (1974).

AWE was also ordered to pay costs of £9,945.71 during a virtual hearing at High Wycombe Magistrates Court.

It follows an electrical incident on 20 June 2019 at the AWE Aldermaston site which resulted in a contractor narrowly avoiding injury when a flash over of electricity occurred from a 415V electrical source. The incident was a conventional health and safety matter and took place in a ‘non-nuclear’ building, so there was no radiological risk to workers or the public.

The prosecution was the result of an investigation into the incident by ONR, the UK’s independent nuclear safety regulator.

Donald Urquhart, ONR’s Deputy Chief Inspector and Director of Operating Facilities regulation, said: “We welcome today’s outcome, which recognises that AWE plc fell short of its duty to protect the safety of a contractor working on its site.

“This related to a conventional safety hazard and, had the correct safety arrangements been in place, could and should have been avoided. Fortunately, in this case, the individual involved narrowly avoided serious harm.

“I’m pleased that AWE recognises that it failed to deliver its legal duty to protect this worker in this instance. Whilst AWE has introduced and is delivering a programme of electrical safety improvements, it is clear that there is still further work to be done. I have asked my team of inspectors on this site to maintain regulatory oversight of delivery of these improvements.

“As an independent regulator, ONR holds dutyholders to account on behalf of workers and the public and won’t hesitate to take such enforcement action as is necessary to do so.”