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August 17, 2009

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Welsh care homes let down by legionella survey

A water treatment company carried out inadequate legionella surveys on water systems at a number of nursing homes in Wales.

In November 2007 the HSE was notified that an employee at Woffington Care Home in Blaenau Gwent, South Wales, had been admitted to hospital with Legionnaires’ disease. An HSE inspector visited his workplace and took samples of the water to test for the bacteria.

Although the results showed that there was no legionella present in the water, the inspector was concerned that the home, which was managed by Craegmoor Healthcare, didn’t have adequate controls in place to manage the threat of the bacteria. Subsequently, the inspector visited three other nursing homes managed by the same firm and identified inadequate controls for legionella at each premises.  

During the investigation it was discovered that DEBA UK Ltd had been commissioned to carry out a legionella surveys at each of the nursing homes and had rated each property as having a low risk of containing the bacteria. But there was no evidence that the firm had taken regular temperature readings from the water systems to ensure that the storage temperature was above 60oC. It also failed to take any readings from the storage and distribution points in the system, and instead recorded the temperature at exit points.

HSE inspector Matthew Hamar said: “Elderly nursing-home residents are at greater risk from the bacteria that give rise to conditions such as Legionnaires’ disease, so it is imperative that safety-critical surveys-like those carried out by DEBA UK Ltd are adequate.”

DEBA UK Ltd appeared at Abertillery Magistrates’ Court on 5 August and pleaded guilty to three breaches of s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined a total of £24,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £17,276.

The firm mitigated that it had no previous convictions and has improved its method statement. It has also re-trained its staff to ensure they take temperatures from the water systems at the correct places.

Inspector Hamar added: “The nursing-home operators commissioned DEBA UK Ltd to carry out the surveys in good faith and to help them comply with their responsibilities to manage the risk posed by legionella on their premises. They were badly let down in this case.

“Fortunately, there was no evidence of any outbreak of the disease as a result of these incidents, but there is a clear responsibility to those companies carrying out specialist work that they need to carry out adequate surveys and provide accurate information.”

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4 years ago

Articles like this highlight the importance of managing water systems safely and correctly.