HSE slams safety lapse that led to worker's 95m fall while decommissioning Sellafield chimney

A nuclear operator and demolition contractor have been fined a total of £250,000 after a worker died on the Sellafield site in Cumbria.

Sellafield Ltd, formerly British Nuclear Fuels Ltd, has been fined £150,000 as the result of the death of Neil Cannon in January 2003. Cannon's employer, Middlesbrough-based PC Richardson & Co, has been fined £100,000 plus £25,000 costs.

The accident happened while work was being carried out to decommission one of the pile chimneys on the Sellafield site in Cumbria. Cannon was removing steelwork inside the chimney when he fell 95m, suffering fatal injuries.

Cannon was working on an unprotected ledge inside the chimney. At the time of the accident, he was trying to remove a girder from the ledge. The girder tipped upwards, sliced through Cannon's safety lanyard, and he fell through the gap between the ledge and the working platform.

Mark Cottriall, principal inspector with the Health and Safety Executive, said: “This tragic accident need never have happened. A safe working method had been prepared for removing the steelwork in the chimney. If this had been followed, Mr Cannon would not have had to leave the safety of the working platform that had been built inside the chimney.

"As often happens on construction projects, however, the proposed method was changed as the work progressed.”