A COMPANY has been fined £30,000 after one of its staff suffered radiation burns after being hit by an x-ray beam.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the man, who still works for Hartlepool-based Mistras ETS Ltd, suffered severe blistering and swelling to his right hand and required surgery to remove the infected skin.

However, his long-term prognosis as a result of the radiation exposure is unknown and it was described as “sheer luck” that he had not suffered serious or fatal injuries.

Mistras ETS, which provides radiographic testing to industry using x-ray and gamma radiation, admitted two breaches under the Health and Safety at Work Act and not complying with regulations concerning the use of radiation.

The accident, on September 19 2012, happened while warning beacons were being tested which led to the safety system for the x-ray equipment being turned off.

The Redcar man was with a trainee in a radiation bay and was trying to reposition the equipment so an x-ray could be taken on a tube.

But he had not been made aware that an engineer was carrying out tests, and the engineer had not noticed anybody in the bay.

The x-ray was then energised and he received radiation exposure to his fingers for at least a few seconds.

An investigation identified “management failings” and found that staff had developed an “ad hoc” method of working as a result of a lack of safe procedures to follow.

Staff also widely ignored an instruction to remove a key operating the x-ray equipment control panel when they left to go on breaks, which had happened in this case.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Paul Wilson said: “The level of x-ray radiation to which this worker was exposed was capable of causing serious ill-health, including the potential for death if the x-rays had hit vital organs of his body.”

Tony Cornberg, mitigating, said the company had paid £16,623 towards the costs of the HSE's investigation and had produced and published a 'lessons learnt' document for staff.

He said: “This was a freak occurrence, a one-off accident involving a decent company.”

Recorder Bernard Gateshill fined the company £30,000 and ordered it pay £4,930 costs.

He said: “This was an accident waiting to happen. There was no clear system in place to prevent what occurred or any kind of risk assessment plan.”