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June 15, 2012

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Another death and more enforcement action in Legionnaires’ outbreak

A second person has died in the Edinburgh outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease but the Scottish Government has repeated reassurances that the worst is over.

A man in his 40s, who was suffering from significant pre-existing underlying health conditions, died yesterday evening at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. The man is understood to have been from the Gorgie area of the city, which is currently the focus of the investigation into the source of the outbreak by the HSE and Edinburgh City Council.

The latter announced this afternoon (15 June) that it has served an Improvement Notice on the National Museum of Scotland as part of the ongoing investigation. It relates to staff training issues and requires the Museum to ensure that key personnel are appropriately trained in the management of water systems, which includes overseeing the ongoing monitoring and maintenance regime undertaken by specialist contractors.

The notice does not relate to the operation of cooling towers, nor does it mean that the National Museum of Scotland has been identified as the source of the outbreak. The Museum is in central Edinburgh and is not part of the ‘cluster’ of sites being investigated in the south-west of the city.

Earlier this week, the HSE took enforcement action against a second company in that area, serving two Improvement Notices on pharmaceuticals firm Macfarlan Smith, of Wheatfield Road, Gorgie. This follows the first Improvement Notice to be served as part of the investigation, which was on North British Distillery Company, also of Wheatfield Road, last week.

The notices issued to Macfarlan Smith, which describes itself as one of the world’s oldest pharmaceutical companies, require it to carry out thorough cleaning of one of its cooling towers and provide access for inspection and maintenance of that tower.

Again, the HSE has stressed that this enforcement action does not mean that this cooling tower has been identified as the source of the outbreak. It added: “The Improvement Notices have been served because the company has allegedly failed to maintain their control measures of the safe operation of the cooling tower to the required standard.

“It does not indicate an immediate risk from legionella, as this was being controlled by the emergency dosing of chemicals and the company’s subsequent voluntary shutdown of the cooling tower.”

Macfarlan Smith and the National Museum of Scotland have 21 days to appeal the notices from the date of their issue.

Speaking after the second death was confirmed, Cabinet Secretary for health and well-being Nicola Sturgeon sent her condolences to the man’s family but added: “Despite this sad and tragic development it remains the case that we believe the outbreak to have peaked. However, we continue to monitor the situation carefully and advise anyone with any concerns to contact the special NHS 24 helpline.

As of yesterday (14 June) the total number of cases was 88 – 41 confirmed and 47 suspected.

Approaches to managing the risks associated Musculoskeletal disorders

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Matt Birtles, Principal Ergonomics Consultant at HSE’s Science and Research Centre, about the different approaches to managing the risks associated with Musculoskeletal disorders.

Matt, an ergonomics and human factors expert, shares his thoughts on why MSDs are important, the various prevalent rates across the UK, what you can do within your own organisation and the Risk Management process surrounding MSD’s.

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11 years ago

It will be like the gas explosion in Glasgow, covering over the cracks after failing to identify and control significant risk.

The HSE spent the following years issuing endless notices for maintenance and adequate protection measures to existing gas supplies.

Inspectors were shuffled about to avoid infurence of mistakes having been made, and this was years before any cuts to thier budget.

History has a habit of repeating itself. guaranteed to see more I N`s issued now?

11 years ago

An outbreak has affected dozens of members of the public and sadly already claimed the lives of two – what can we learn from these tragedies?
Who thinks that the Coalition Government demonising health and safety and slashing inspections targets is a good thing?
Coolings towers may present a low level of risk when managed well but can businesses be expected to comply with the law if they are never likely to be inspected?
Ask HSE when last inspected?
Question – when did HSE or Council last in

11 years ago

There is no excuse. I recall a lady councilor of a northern Council some years ago who tried to save money by dismissing the current cooling tower contractors while instructing her staff to continue the maintenance without specific training. 8 people died and she was fined £150,000. You can’t mess with cooling towers. There are specific treatments and suppliers of same available that render the towers safe, so there is no excuse. HSE must bear some responsibility irrespective of funding.