Alliance Medical fined £420k
Alliance Medical, a nationwide diagnostic imaging provider, has been fined over £420,000 for breaching health and safety laws.
The fines were levied by the Health & Safety Executive after incidents at two sites when employees were exposed to radiation.
The Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 (“IRR17”) set explicit levels of radiation that employers must adhere to maintaining in workplaces. This is called the Radiation Legal Base.
Health & Safety laws (the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations) stipulate that all employers must undertake a risk assessment and this should consider the risks from radiation in the workplace.
Ionising Radiation Regulations
Ionising radiations occurs as either electromagnetic rays (such as X-rays and gamma rays) or particles (such as alpha and beta particles). It occurs naturally (e.g. as radon gas) but can also be produced artificially. It is an occupational hazard in many workplaces, especially in medical settings.
Under IRR17 employers must undertake a radiation risk assessment before they start any new activity with ionising radiation, giving particular consideration to exposure levels and accident situations.
On 25 March 2019, a vial of a radioactive substance leaked after it was installed into sophisticated medical-imaging scanner. The Positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET-CT) facility at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds uses a radioactive substance, F-18 Fluorodeoxyglucose, to help acquire images of the body.
The leak resulted in two employees being contaminated with skin doses in excess of the annual dose limit as defined by IRR17.
In the second incident, on 15 November 2019, the same substance was unknowingly handled during the production process at the Alliance Medical Radiopharmacy Limited facility at Keele University Science Park in Staffordshire. A member of staff was contaminated with a skin dose in excess of the annual dose limit as defined by IRR17.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incidents found that training and instruction was inadequate and supervision below an acceptable standard.
Staff had not been made fully aware of localised instructions and were using personal protective equipment unsuitable for work with radioactive material.
The HSE also found that the radiation warning system at the Keele centre was not operational at the time of the incident and had not undergone routine maintenance or testing at suitable intervals.
Alliance Medical fined
Alliance Medical Limited pleaded guilty to breaches of IRR17 were fined £300,000 and ordered to pay costs of £11,382 at Leeds Magistrates’ Court. Alliance Medical Radiopharmacy Limited, also pleaded guilty and was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay costs of £11,382 in the same court on the same date.
HSE specialist inspector Elizabeth Reeves said: “The workers in both these incidents were exposed to levels of radiation which could potentially impact on their health in the future.
“Employers in the nuclear medicine sector must properly assess the risks to their employees and others and ensure all radiation doses are as low as reasonably practicable.
“Both these incidents could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out the correct control measures and ensuring safe working practices were followed. Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement actions against those that fall below the required standards.”