Engineering firm in court over legionella failings

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An international engineering firm has been fined for failing to manage the risk of potentially fatal legionella bacteria developing…

Chromalloy UK Limited, which refurbishes turbine blades, has been fined for failings that could have potentially exposed many to the fatal legionella bacteria.

The firm, which has sites in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire and Somercotes, Derbyshire failed to manage the risks of bacteria growing in their cooling towers for over a year in May 2011.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector visited the site in Somercotes in May 2012. During this time he felt spray on his face and saw the yard’s surface was wet. He found evidence of corrosion on the nearby cooling towers, which can encourage the growth of legionella bacteria. This is carried in water droplets that can cause a potentially fatal form of pneumonia, legionnaire’s disease, if inhaled.

The inspector visited the rest of the Somercotes factory, as well as the site at Eastwood and found significant failings in the company’s control, recording, and management of legionella risks.

In June 2012, HSE issued four improvement notices. This required Chromalloy to fit inlet screens to the cooling towers to prevent debris falling in, which could encourage the growth of legionella. It also required all corroded items of the plant to be replaced.

In 2008, two similar notices had been served on the company for improvements on rusting towers and a number of management failures. These were fully complied with.

A water sample taken from Somercotes prior to the HSE investigation in 2012 found the levels of legionella to be so high immediate action was needed to clean the system.

The firm also failed to keep biocides, which kill bacteria, at effective levels.

Chromalloy admitted breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £55,000 for each breach, totalling £110,000. The firm was also ordered to pay costs of £77,252.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Stuart Parry said: “The company’s water treatment programme and associated management arrangements were found to be severely ineffective.

“Chromalloy UK Limited was grossly complacent in its attempts to manage the risks arising from legionella bacteria in its cooling towers at two separate locations.

“HSE intervened in 2008 but the company did not sustain any improvements made.

“There were serious risks to employees and members of the public becoming infected with legionnaires’ disease due to this company’s failure to do all that was reasonably practicable to control the proliferation of legionella bacteria in their cooling towers.

“Employers must understand the health risks associated with legionella and take the necessary precautions to control or reduce risks arising from evaporative cooling systems.”

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