Office for Nuclear Regulation

Atomic Weapons Establishment Burghfield – Inspection ID: 52749

Executive summary

Date(s) of inspection

  • September 2023

Aim of inspection

The aim of this planned regulatory inspection in the largest new facility currently under construction on the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Burghfield site, was to sample compliance with the duties imposed by The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (EWR89). These Regulations require precautions to be taken against the risk of death or personal injury from electricity in work activities and are one of the relevant statutory provisions of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The facility was targeted for inspection following AWE notifying ONR of an incident where a live electrical junction box was accessed in error, which resulted in no harm.

In addition to assessing AWE’s compliance, the regulatory intelligence gathered will inform an industry-wide electrical safety theme as set-out in ONR’s Chief Nuclear Inspector’s annual report.

Subject(s) of inspection

  • Health & Safety at Work Act – Rating: Green

Key findings, inspector’s opinions and reasons for judgement made

The aim of this planned regulatory inspection in the largest new facility currently under construction on the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Burghfield site, was to sample compliance with the duties imposed by The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (EWR89). These Regulations require precautions to be taken against the risk of death or personal injury from electricity in work activities and are one of the relevant statutory provisions of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The facility was targeted for inspection following AWE notifying ONR of an incident where a live electrical junction box was accessed in error, which resulted in no harm.

The inspection was on a construction site that is under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015.  AWE has the role of Client and Costain are the Principal Contractor. Although AWE hosted the inspection, the main contact throughout the day was with its Principal Contractor representatives.

The inspection team comprised two ONR electrical specialist safety inspectors.

The inspection team’s preliminary findings were shared with, acknowledged, and accepted by AWE and its Principal Contractor management as part of inspection feedback at the closing meeting. These findings, based on the inspection sample, can be summarised as follows:

•    The electrical equipment we inspected was designed and installed in accordance with relevant good practice (BS7671. BS 61439. EWR89 Regulations 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 19, 12, 12, 15, 16).

•    The arrangements for ensuring the competency of persons engaged in electrical testing aligned to relevant good practice (EWR89 Regulation 16).

•    There were defined arrangements to control the configuration of electrical equipment from initial installation through to its commissioning and subsequent incorporation into operational systems and we sampled evidence that these were being complied with (EWR89 Regulation 4).

•    The control of work management arrangements was understood and were being used effectively for the tasks that we sampled. There were defined roles and responsibilities and procedures in relation to electrical safety and the personnel we engaged with understood these. We observed good use of additional administrative work controls in the Work Coordination Centre and Permit Office. (EWR89 Regulation 4).

•    We judged that appropriate improvements had been made to prevent re-occurrence of accessing live equipment following the junction box incident. However, at the time of the inspection, it was not clear if it was always the case that conductors are proved dead at the point of work before tasks commence in accordance with relevant good practice (HSE HSR25, EWR89 Regulation 13). We explained that a regulatory issue will be raised on the Principal Contractor to review this aspect of the electrical safety arrangements.

Conclusion

Based on the sample inspected, I judge AWE and its Principal Contractor has demonstrated compliance against EWR89. I have therefore rated the intervention as Green – ‘No Formal Action’.  This rating is in line with the established ONR guidance as follows:

•    “Relevant good practice generally met, or minor shortfalls identified, when compared with appropriate benchmarks.”
•    “No significant shortfalls identified in the delivery of safety, safeguards or security functions.”