28 de jun. de 2011

Quarry Bank firm slapped with £125,000 bill after Legionnaire's scare

A QUARRY Bank automotive parts firm has been hit with a bill for £125,000 after workers and members of the public were put at risk from the potentially fatal Legionnaire's disease.

Eaton Ltd failed to properly manage the water cooling systems used in the manufacturing processes at its Thorns Road plant.

The firm, which has a head office in Hampshire, admitted breaching health and safety regulations and was fined £80,000 plus £45,000 costs.

Judge Martin Walsh said: "Water towers, unless maintained and cleaned appropriately, have the potential for harbouring and cultivating the legionella bacteria."

Wolverhampton Crown Court was told that although no worker contracted any illness, the health of staff could have been put at risk.

The firm had employed Tamworth based Aegis Ltd to clean and maintain its three cooling towers but the work they carried out was not done to a high standard.

Aegis Ltd had been contracted to provide water treatment services but had failed significantly in their duties.

There was no comprehensive and up-to-date risk assessment and neither company had taken reasonable steps to control the potential spread of Legionella.

Aegis Ltd were found guilty after a trial in front of Judge Walsh in May and they were fined £40,000 and ordered to pay costs totalling £80,000.

After the case, HSE inspector Paul Billinger said: "It is vital that companies who used water cooling treatment as part of their manufacturing processess have plans in place to ensure the level of Legionella bacteria in their systems does not become unsafe.

"Legionnaire’s disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia which can affect anyone coming into contact with it. Neither Eaton Ltd or Aegis Ltd which was specifically contracted to manage the water system, took the Legionella risk seriously.

"They failed to deal with their own risk assessment and service agreement in respect of cleaning the system. These were persistent and systematic failures which put the health of people at risk."

Legionnaire's disease is caused by bacteria found naturally in rivers, lakes and reservoirs but it can multiply and become extremely dangerous in some purpose-built water systems.

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