AWE fined £200,000 for safety breach over 2010 Aldermaston fire

The Atomic Weapons Establishment has been fined £200,000 for a safety breach during a fire at its Berkshire site

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The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) has been fined £200,000 for a safety breach during a fire at its Berkshire site in 2010.

Judge Richard Parkes QC told the hearing at Reading Crown Court the firm must also pay £80,258 in prosecution costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

Employee Ashley Emery, from Basingstoke, Hampshire, suffered burns when a fireball erupted in his face at the Aldermaston site in August 2010.

He will receive £2,500 in compensation.

AWE admitted a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 at a hearing earlier this month in a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Warheads for Trident, the UK's submarine-launched ballistic missile, are built and maintained at the AWE site, which employs more than 4,000 people.

Mr Emery's burns to his arm and face were caused by an eruption from a "bubbling" mixture he was preparing in the manufacture of explosives.

Judge Parkes said the injuries to Mr Emery's arm would have been less serious if he had been provided with adequate safety clothing.

HSE prosecutors deemed it unsuitable at an earlier hearing when the court heard it carried a label saying "keep away from flames".

Judge Parkes said: "I do not find that responsibility for the defendant's failures went to the levels of senior management, nor is there any evidence of a broader culture of neglect of health."

After sentencing, HSE inspector Dave Norman said: "The fire could have caused multiple casualties and it was entirely preventable had better control systems been in place.

"The failure to instigate such controls was dependent on AWE identifying potential hazards and risks, all of which were well documented, but that simply did not happen."

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