A steel company has been fined for putting employees and members of the public at risk of legionella bacteria.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says Coilcolor Limited failed to manage the dangers associated with the potentially deadly bacteria at 2 cooling towers in Newport, Gwent, over a period of 5 years.
Workers on the site and people in the surrounding area, which included a housing estate and a hospital, were put at risk of legionellosis, a collective term used to describe pneumonia-like illnesses caused by or related to legionella bacteria.
Newport Crown Court heard how in February 2014, the HSE visited the company’s premises and found it had been operating the cooling towers without taking appropriate measures to control the risk of proliferation of the bacteria since 2009.
No risk assessment for the operation had been carried out, while also there was no written scheme.
The towers were generally in a poor condition. Drift eliminators to reduce the spread of aerosol were missing, plus there was no water treatment programme in place.
Furthermore, staff had not been trained to appreciate and manage the risks involved with the work.
Prohibition Notices were immediately served, preventing the use of the cooling towers until all appropriate controls were put in place. Improvement Notices were also served with regard to risk assessment and management.
Coilcolor Limited pleaded guilty to offences under Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined a total of £75,000 and ordered to pay costs of £28,393.
Legionellosis can describe Lochgoilhead, Pontiac fever and Legionnaires’ disease.
The latter is the most serious of these illnesses. It is a serious form of pneumonia caused by inhaling droplets of water contaminated by legionella bacteria. Symptoms progress from a headache and muscle pain to a high temperature, chills, chest pain and a persistent cough.
Normally antibiotic treatment leads to a full recovery. But some people are left with longer-term health problems such as fatigue, muscle weakness and respiratory problems. If left untreated, Legionnaires’ disease can be fatal.
Source: Health and Safety Executive