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West Bromwich Manufacturer Fined After Legionnaires’ Outbreak

West Bromwich Manufacturer Fined After Legionnaires’ Outbreak
06 June 2023
 

A judge has fined a plastics manufacturing company in West Bromwich for failing to manage the risk of Legionella in its water cooling towers.

Riaar Plastics Limited inherited the water cooling towers at its site on Black Lake, West Bromwich. The towers were in poor condition, allowing Legionella bacteria to grow in the water-cooling towers and pipes, exposing employees and members of the public to risks of significant ill health.

 

“The condition of the cooling towers at this site was the worst I had ever seen. The Legionella exposure risk to employees, site visitors, neighbouring duty holders and members of the public was extreme in nature."

–Jenny Skeldon

Principal Inspector, HSE

 

Five People Infected With Legionnaire’s Disease

 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the business after members of the public became infected with Legionnaire’s disease in September 2020. Five people were infected, with one person taken to intensive care and put on a ventilator after being infected.

At Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on 2 June 2023, Riaar Plastics Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The company was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £11,000 in costs.

HSE principal inspector Jenny Skeldon said: “The condition of the cooling towers at this site was the worst I had ever seen. The Legionella exposure risk to employees, site visitors, neighbouring duty holders and members of the public was extreme in nature.

“Exposure to Legionella can cause death or serious illness where water cooling systems are not been managed effectively. It is really important that proactive management of the risk from Legionella bacteria is taken seriously. There are well-publicised and simple precautions for companies to take that if followed will ensure that employers manage and control the risk.”

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe pneumonia caused by the inhalation of small droplets of water in the air that contain the Legionella bacteria. The bacteria is common in natural water sources in low numbers, but they can be found in spa pools, condensers and purpose-built water systems such as cooling towers where water is maintained at a temperature high enough to encourage growth.

Employers are duty-bound to manage legionella risks in the workplace. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) provide a framework of actions designed to assess, prevent or control the risk from bacteria like Legionella.

Picture: a photograph of one of the affected cooling towers, which is visibly in very poor condition. Image Credit: HSE

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 06 June 2023

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