A UNITE the union member who was exposed to dangerous radiation while working for a nuclear power station and who had time off and suffered flashbacks as a result has received £4,500 in compensation.

The 38-year-old, from Workington was exposed to Alpha radiation in his job as a process worker for Sellafield Limited in Seascale in January 2007.

If inhaled or digested Alpha radiation can cause cancer, chromosomal changes, kidney damage and, in high dosages, lethal radiation poisoning.

The member, who has worked for Sellafield for a number of years, was exposed when a colleague failed to follow procedures and released radioactive material into the air. Although an alarm system warned all the employees working in the area to evacuate the negligent colleague carried the radioactive waste into a secure area

The men were unable to leave the contaminated secure area until the health physics monitor had tested them for radiation exposure.

The tests showed that the men had traces of radiation on their clothes but none were found to have inhaled it.

The member returned to work straight away but after two weeks began to suffer anxiety and flashbacks. He was diagnosed with depression and had to take three months off work and take anti-depressants for six months.

He has now returned to his regular job but fears that a similar accident may happen in the future with worse consequences.

He said: “I know I do my job well and I make sure that I follow the health and safety procedures because if you make a mistake it can kill. The problem is that I no longer trust my colleagues not to make mistakes. I forced myself to return to my job and I forced myself to deal with my anxiety but there is always that niggle at the back of my mind.”

Contacted his union about compensation

Almost three years following the accident he felt well enough to consider his situation and decided to contact his union about compensation for what he had been through. There is a three year period in which proceedings can be started and Unite’s lawyers Thompsons Solicitors had to move fast. They were able to settle the claim in just six weeks.

Davey Hall from Unite said: “It took our member a long time to come to terms with his exposure to radiation and when he was ready to talk to the union there was limited time left to start a claim. We were able to direct him to our specialist lawyers to claim compensation. Fortunately Thompsons moved quickly and the claim was settled without the need for court proceedings and before the three year time period was up.”

Hazel Webb from Thompsons Solicitors added: “Our client and his colleagues were extremely lucky that their workmate’s negligence didn’t lead to long term physical injuries.

“The colleague didn’t follow training and by admitting liability Sellafield acknowledged the unacceptable and very serious consequences the men faced that day.”