A care home has been ordered to pay £40,000 in fines and costs after elderly residents were put at risk of catching Legionnaires’ disease.
Mother Redcaps Care Home Ltd in Wallasey, Merseyside, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after it failed to comply with an improvement notice to assess the risk from the potentially fatal legionella bacteria.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that the care home did not have an infrastructure in place for managing its hot and cold water systems.
Bacteria build-up in water systems
Mother Redcaps was first served with an improvement notice in November 2011 following a visit from a HSE inspector and was given two extensions to a deadline to comply. However, it had still failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment by May 2012, despite being offered guidance.
Without proper controls legionella bacteria can build up in water systems where the temperature is between 20 and 45 degrees Celsius, creating the risk that small droplets containing the bacteria could be breathed in when water becomes airborne, such as in showers.
Up to 50 residents, as well as the nursing home’s staff, could have been put at risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease if the bacteria had been present, the court was told.
Legionnaires’ disease is one of the many workplace illnesses people can suffer if the required safety standards have not been met, but Accident Advice Helpline’s health and safety lawyers can help with compensation claims.
Elderly susceptible to Legionnaires
Mother Redcaps was fined £6,525 and ordered to pay £33,475 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
HSE inspector Phil Redman said: “While there is no evidence that residents or members of staff were exposed to legionella bacteria, there was a clear and inexcusable failure to properly assess and control the risk.
“Elderly people and those with poor health are particularly susceptible to
Legionnaires’ disease so the company should have done more to assess and control the risks, making sure lives weren’t put in danger.”