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Company fined for safety failings that led to Legionella risk

A steel coating company has been fined for failing to manage the risks from Legionella bacteria at two cooling towers over a period of five years.

Newport Crown Court heard how in February 2014, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) visited Coilcolor Limited, of Whitehead Estate, Docks Way, Newport, Gwent and found it had been operating two cooling towers on site without taking appropriate measures to control the risk of proliferation of the bacteria since 2009.

The risks from the operation of the cooling towers had not been assessed, there was no written scheme, the towers were in poor condition, drift eliminators to reduce the spread of aerosol were missing, there was no water treatment programme in place and staff had not been trained to appreciate and manage the risks.

Prohibition Notices were immediately served by the HSE inspector that prevented the cooling towers from being used until all appropriate controls were put in place.

Improvement Notices were then served with regard to risk assessment and management.

Coilcolor Limited was fined a total of £75,000 and ordered to pay £28,393 in costs after pleading guilty to offences under Section 2(1) (£30,00) and 3(1) (£45,000) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

HSE inspector Joanne Carter said: “Operating cooling towers without proper controls in place can present a significant risk to employees and members of the public; in this case, the company operates next to a housing estate and within one kilometre of the Royal Gwent Hospital.”

In the US, a Legionnaire’s outbreak has left four dead and 29 sickened at an Illinois veterans’ home, Reuters has reported.

The outbreak in Quincy, which is about 240 miles southwest of Chicago, follows recent outbreaks of the respiratory illness that killed a dozen people in New York City and has sickened inmates at a California prison.

Adams County, Illinois, health officials have confirmed that the more than two dozen cases all are connected to the Quincy veterans’ home

In New York, an outbreak traced to the historic Opera House Hotel killed 12 people and sickened 128 before it was declared over in August.

In August, the California corrections department was working to determine the origin of a Legionnaires’ outbreak at San Quentin State Prison that had sickened at least five inmates and left dozens more under observation.

The 12th Annual Combatting Legionella & Water Treatment conference will take place on 29-30 September at Aston Villa Park in Birmingham.

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