Court fines company $132,000 for radiation security and safety breaches

The NSW Land and Environment Court has fined Gammasonics Institute for Medical Research Pty Ltd a total of $132,000 for radiation offences relating to the transport and storage of a radioactive device in Sydney, following a successful prosecution by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

The EPA prosecuted Gammasonics for three offences under Radiation Control legislation.

Two of the charges related to Gammasonics transporting an irradiator, a medical device used for sterilising blood, from Five Dock to Lane Cove, in breach of its security transport plan and the safety requirements of Radiation Control legislation.

Gammasonics moved the sealed device early on 28 May 2016 in a dangerous goods container on an open flatbed truck without satellite tracking. The truck driver was not told the cargo was radioactive, that police must be contacted in the event of any threats to the container, and no identity checks were carried out on the transport team. 

The third charge arose when Gammasonics failed to have a security plan in place for the irradiator once it had arrived at the Lane Cove premises.

Gammasonics pleaded guilty to all three charges.

In handing down her sentence Justice Sandra Duggan said ‘the actual transport of radioactive material is a situation where inherent risks are exacerbated’.

“The transportation from the premises along public roads exposes the container to risks such as accident and theft.

“The failure to comply with a plan specifically designed to ameliorate these transport risks is a serious omission.”

The EPA contended during the hearing that although the risk was small, if damaged during the move, radiation from the irradiator could have been fatal to anyone with direct contact.

EPA Executive Director Hazardous Incidents and Environmental Health Steve Beaman said licencing and regulation was in place to protect the public and the environment.

“There are strict rules under the Radiation Control legislation to make sure radioactive materials are used, stored and kept safely,” he said.

“The EPA had advised Gammasonics prior to the offences that transporting the device in this way was not lawful.

“The penalty handed down by the court reflects the seriousness of the offence and importance of following licence conditions and regulations.”

Gammasonics was also ordered to pay the EPA’s legal costs.

A link to the judgment is here.  More information on radiation management can be found on the EPA website