Flint. The Bronx. Chicago. You will have heard the recent headlines. The serious outbreaks of the deadly Legionella bacteria have resulted in multiple deaths around the US in the past few years. Are these outbreaks becoming more prevalent? How about in the UK? And what can you do to prevent Legionella multiplying and spreading as a business owner?
Today we extricate the hysteria from the real life implications and let you know how to avoid this bacteria growing on your premises.
Legionella is a bacterium that is known to cause a severe pneumonia-like disease called Legionnaires’ disease (which results in 5-30% fatality rate among people who contract the disease), as well as the less severe, flu-like Pontiac fever. Both of these conditions come about from inhalation of micro droplets of water in the air that contain the bacteria. This bacterium thrives in warm water.
This means that the bacteria can be spread through water sources such as pools, hot tubs, fountains, cooling towers, water systems, plumbing, water trucks, and other similar water elements.
Cooling towers are often the source of outbreaks – because of the size of many of them. Cooling towers can pump these water droplets into the air, up to many kilometres away from the tower, as demonstrated by the 86 fatalities following a case in France in late 2003.
There have been fatalities in the UK as recently as 2012 that were caused by Legionnaires’ disease. In one case, there were 18 confirmed cases with one death that was attributed to a hot tub in the JTF Warehouse in Stoke-on-Trent, and a large outbreak in Scotland, thought to be originated from cooling towers that resulted in the death of at least four people.
More recently, a hotelier in Dundee has been fined £54,000 after a 2011 incident which saw eighteen people develop Pontiac fever after exposure to the inadequately maintained and monitored spa. A scare at a prison on the Isle of Wight in early 2016 was lucky to not see the bacteria spread.
It is thought that the incidence of Legionella is growing, perhaps due to the prevalence of more forms of water sources that breed the bacterium.
Any business owners who have these sort of water sources on premises need to be concerned about the chance of a Legionella outbreak. Not only are you at risk of causing loss of life or serious illness, you’re also at risk of receiving a large fine (such as the case in Dundee) under the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974. Putting your employees at risk of ill health in any circumstances leaves you open to being prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive.
Following the regarding control of the bacteria are a must. Beyond that it is necessary to complete appropriate training to adequately realize the measures necessary to keep all water sources clean and well maintained, thus minimising the risk of an outbreak occurring.
Equipping duty holders and key employees with health and safety training surrounding the requirements of L8 is the best form of defence against any troubles on your premises.
At Howlett Health and Safety Services we offer comprehensive, interactive, tutor-lead online training about the management of legionella on your premises. Knowing what you need to do is the first step in ensuring legal compliance.