Friday, 31 October 2014

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John McKenna, Editor

HSE warning after Bulmer legionnaire prosecution

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HSE prosecutes HP Bulmer Ltd and Nalco Ltd following outbreak at Hereford site, which killed two people

London - The Health and Safety Executive is warning companies to ensure that water storage and cooling systems are adequately treated to prevent the growth of the legionella bacteria. The call comes after HP Bulmer Ltd and Nalco Ltd were fined over an outbreak of Legionnaire's disease at Bulmer's Cider Mills site in Hereford.

The outbreak, which occurred in 2003, caused the deaths of two people, with the Health Protection Agency attributing a total of 26 cases of legionnaire's disease to the outbreak. In Hereford Crown Court on 1 July, the companies were each fined £300,000 with costs of £50,000, having previously entered guilty pleas following a HSE investigation into cooling towers at the plant.

HP Bulmer had employed water treatment company Nalco, at the time trading as Ondeo Nalco Ltd, as part of its strategy to manage risk from legionella bacteria during the use of the evaporative cooling towers at the Hereford cider production facility.

The incident revealed a failure to institute and maintain an effective cleansing treatment and disinfectant regime for two seasonably used cooling towers at the Bulmer site, commented HSE investigating inspector Tony Woodward. He accused Bulmer of inadequate management and neglecting its duty of care with regards to legionella, which affects around 300 people in the UK each year.

"The fact that building users engage a specialist contractor does not mean that they have complied with the law; they must work with the contractor and ensure they are receiving the service required," said Woodward. "Equally specialist contractors and sub-contractors must provide their clients with the expertise which they have been engaged for."

 After the Crown Court Hearing, Nalco’s European president David Johnson said: “Nalco deeply regrets the loss of life and illness caused by the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at the Bulmers plant in 2003. Our heartfelt sympathy continues to go to all those affected. We fully accept the Court’s findings and our responsibilities. Since the date of this incident Nalco has changed its operational procedures, and it is our aim to prevent anything like this ever happening again.”

After treating the Hereford facility safely for 17 years, Johnson said that although not all factors were within its control, on this occasion Nalco had failed to meet its own standards. Since the incident, the company has been fully audited and accredited by the UK trade body the Legionella Control Association and has been awarded the ISO 9001 standard.

The company has made comprehensive changes to strengthen and standardise operational and risk management programmes, continued a Nalco statement, in which its European president commented: “We will share all our knowledge and experience with the rest of the industry in an effort to prevent anything like this happening in the future.”

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