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Companies fined over legionella risk

FINES and costs totalling nearly £250,000 have been imposed on two UK companies for putting people at risk of exposure to the legionella bacteria.
The Health and Safety Executive prosecuted multinational automotive parts manufacturer Eaton Ltd and Tamworth-based water treatment services provider Aegis Ltd after an investigation in 2006.

HSE inspectors told Wolverhampton Crown Court that Eaton Ltd had failed to properly manage the water cooling systems used in manufacturing processes at its plant in Thorns Road, Brierley Hill. Aegis Ltd, which had been contracted to provide water treatment services (now trading from its Tamworth address as Aegis Water Treatment Ltd), was also found to have failed significantly in its duties.

There was no comprehensive and up-to-date risk assessment in place and neither company had taken reasonable steps to control the potential spread of legionella by assessing the risk or properly cleaning and maintaining the water cooling system.  Employees had not been properly supervised. The management failings by both companies were present over a prolonged period of time.

Eaton Ltd, whose head office is based in Fareham, Hampshire, pleaded guilty and was fined £80,000 for breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Section 3(1) of the Act and ordered to pay £45,000 costs.
Aegis Ltd, which was found guilty at a trial in May, was fined £40,000 for breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and ordered to pay £80,000 costs.

After the hearing HSE principal inspector Paul Billinger said:
'It is vital that companies who use water cooling treatment as part of their manufacturing processes have plans in place to make sure the level of legionella bacteria in their systems does not become unsafe.

'Neither Eaton Ltd nor Aegis Ltd, which was specifically contracted to manage the water system, took the legionella risk seriously. They failed to deal with their own risk assessment and service agreement in respect of cleaning the system.
'These were persistent and systemic failures, which put people's health at risk.'

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