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There are numerous prosecutions in the UK every year for individuals and organisations who have not taken the prescribed steps to minimise the risks of legionella. So far, they have mainly been dealt with through fines – some of which are substantial enough to put people out of business and personally bankrupt them. More worryingly, there has been a case that went to court for involuntary manslaughter which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. This demonstrates how serious it is if you do not have adequate controls in place.

Here is a selection of prosecutions over the last few years. Some of the details are staggering – and each one of the people and organisations involved never expected this to happen to them….

Barrow Council

Gillian Beckingham of Barrow Council had cancelled a contract that ensured necessary tests on Council buildings. Following an outbreak of Legionnaires Disease and several fatalities, Miss Beckingham was put on trial for manslaughter. She was finally acquitted, but both her and the Council were found guilty of Health and Safety offences and heavily fined.

HP Bulmer and Nalco

The cider maker and its water treatment contractor failed to take adequate precautions against legionella resulting in 28 cases of Legionnaires Disease and 2 fatalities. Both parties were found to be culpable in allowing legionella “to flourish” and received a combined fine of £600,000 and costs of £100,000.

Eaton Limited and Aegis Limited

A worker at the automotive parts manufacturer Eaton Limited contracted Legionnaires Disease. The HSE investigated and found that whilst they could not be sure the worker caught the disease at work, there were several shortfalls in the company’s legionella control systems – putting workers and the public at risk. Their 3rd party Legionella Assessor Aegis Limited were also found to be at fault. Between both organisations they were fined £120,000 with a further £125,000 of costs.

Golf & Leisure Resort, Dundee

Following the death of a guest, the HSE undertook an investigation and found the resort had failed to control legionella bacteria adequately. The owner had mistakenly believed that his new system would be okay, and by following the manufacturers guidelines he had met HSE obligations. He was wrong, and subsequently fined £120,000.

Basildon Hospital

This Essex hospital is to be prosecuted for allegedly failing to protect the public from the cause of Legionnaires Disease. There have been 13 cases of patients catching the legionella bacteria, and 1 death. This case continues but if proven will result in large fines and possibly involuntary manslaughter charges.

Kepak UK Limited

A butchery processing company was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay an additional £20,000 of costs when 2 of its employees contracted Legionnaires Disease. The company had failed to adequately carry out simple checks, exposing its staff to potentially life threatening bacteria.

SJ Care Homes Limited

A care home company was fined £5,000 for putting elderly Manchester residents at risk, with a further £3,607 of costs. This resulted from a routine visit in 2009 by the HSE who discovered that they did not have the required precautions in place. Despite there not being an outbreak, the HSE can take action for those organisations that do not comply with legislation

Edinburgh 2012

This well publicised outbreak left 2 people dead and many others in intensive care. This is still under investigation with the guilty party, if proven, expecting to face massive fines, civil legal cases, and possibly manslaughter charges.

There are many more prosecutions each year, with fines arising for not providing adequate control measures to prevent the build up of legionella. These can result from a HSE routine visit – you do not need an outbreak with identified cases and deaths to be prosecuted.