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Nuclear submarine base warned over staff safety

Posted in: Employer Negligence Workplace Injuries 

A naval base has been threatened with legal action over a number of safety breaches, including a worker receiving a dose of radiation. Devonport naval base is responsible for refitting Britain’s nuclear submarines, but has been found to be “below standard” for its safety procedures, according to a recent report by the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR).

Last year the ONR issued the Devonport naval base with a legal warning after a worker was contaminated with radiation. According to the ONR, the dose was “very small” but did underline the base’s health and safety “shortfalls”.  Contractor Babcock International has been ordered to bring their health and safety procedures up to an “acceptable standard” before the end of January 2016.

Five health and safety breaches

Alongside the worker’s dose of radiation, the ONR flagged up an additional five incidents where health and safety procedures were not of an acceptable standard last year. On one occasion, radioactive coolant was wrongly discharged into a submarine reactor compartment. On another occasion, torpedo tubes on a docked submarine were found to be “configured in contravention of safety instructions aimed at keeping the boat watertight”. Other safety failings included a nuclear evacuation alarm tested at the incorrect time, a forklift carrying oil gaining “unauthorised access” to a dock, and the safety maintenance of a dockside crane being delayed beyond the “maximum tolerance date”.

Babcock said in a statement: “Improvements relating to the ONR enforcement notice and other recently reported incidents at Devonport Royal Dockyard are being addressed.” The statement continued that these improvements would be carried out through a general “nuclear safety improvement programme”, in accordance with the ONR’s requirements.

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