Personal Law

Sellafield Bullying Leads to Safety Concerns

Estimated read time: 2 mins

Carrie Tennick, March 10, 2021

Bullying and harassment at the Sellafield nuclear site could mean that serious safety concerns are left unreported.

This is according to the BBC, which has investigated reports of abusive behaviour and spoken to whistleblowers.

The BBC said workers at the site reported racist, sexist and homophobic bullying, as well as sexual harassment.

Serious bullying claims

According to the BBC, its investigation found that there were “multiple claims of serious bullying and sexual harassment” among the workforce.

Meanwhile, it also saw a leaked letter to senior management containing allegations of racial abuse. The letter included 27 incidents of racist behaviour, including offensive slurs being used openly.

One reported incident involved a driver shouting “racist taunts” from a car passing through the site.

Effect on safety

The BBC’s investigation also found concerns about the culture of the site and what the impact on safety could be. Alison McDermott, a senior consultant working on Sellafield’s equality strategy, told the BBC: “This is a nuclear site, where many employees are demoralised, bullied and scared to speak out.

“You've got toxic materials and a toxic culture, if you put those two together then you've got a recipe for disaster.”

According to the BBC, an incident involving a worker being exposed to plutonium took place in 2017. A bag of nuclear waste was opened in a workshop. A safety report said a “deficiency in leadership standards” was responsible for the accident.

Sexual harassment allegations

McDermott explained that staff interviews and focus groups exposed sexual harassment allegations. She reported female workers saying they were crying after work because of the harassment they faced.

Her employment was terminated after she submitted a report in which she was critical of the site’s HR department.

She is taking her case to an employment tribunal, claiming that she was sacked for whistleblowing. It is against the law to end someone’s employment for whistleblowing.

Response from Sellafield

In response, a Sellafield spokesperson said: “There is no place for bullying and harassment at Sellafield. We do not tolerate it and where we find it, we take action. We closely monitor our progress, including seeking the views of our workforce through working groups and surveys.

“We accept we have more work to do in this area, but we remain as committed as ever to eradicating unacceptable behaviour from our workplace.”

If you have been dealing with any sort of employment law issue, including bullying, the best thing to do could be getting legal advice.

To find out how our expert employment solicitors could help you, just give us a call or make an enquiry online and we’ll take it from there.

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