A director of a vet practice in Kent has been given a conditional discharge for allowing an employee to x-ray her own foot after a horse stamped on it.

John Kenward, of Ulcombe near Maidstone, was also ordered to pay £1,296 in costs after admitting a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Maidstone Magistrates’ Court heard the employee – a 25-year-old vet and equine intern at Pet Emergency Treatment Services in Bearsted Road, Maidstone – was afraid the foot was broken and that she might not be able to do that evening’s on-call duty.

As a result, she telephoned Mr Kenward, a director of the practice. As they were both concerned she could be held up in the hospital accident and emergency department, Mr Kenward suggested she use the in-house x-ray kit.

He gave her the settings to use and she carried out the test, which showed no break, so she continued to work as normal.

Another director, who acts as company radiation protection supervisor, later noticed a human image on the digital processor. This led him to notify other practice board members of his intention to interview staff about the suspected breach of site radiation safety policy. He was immediately told by Mr Kenward not to discipline the vet intern as he had suggested she use the x-ray.

As a result, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was contacted and an investigation confirmed a breach of radiation regulations.

Although the vet intern, from Maidstone, was the only person present during the x-ray exposure, she did not wear a personal dosemeter during the procedure. However, a HSE representative told the court Mr Kenward was fully aware the rules of the practice clearly stated nobody should be placed within the beam of the x-ray machine.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Rob Hassell said: “Any vet practice using ionising radiation for medical exposures must ensure the x-ray equipment is properly maintained and the requirements of the Ionising Radiations Regulations are complied with.

“The view of HSE and the Department of Health is it is highly unlikely all these conditions can be met by a veterinary practice.

“It follows, therefore, x-rays must not be taken of human beings at practices. We are aware the x-raying of people may not be unique to this particular practice, so I hope others will take note HSE is prepared to prosecute if such breaches come to light.”

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