Health and Safety Executive
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Merthyr company fined over Legionella risk

A Merthyr Tydfil-based recycling company has been fined for failing to take appropriate measures to control the risk of exposure of its workers and the public to the potentially fatal Legionella bacteria.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Merthyr Industrial Services (Biomass) Limited following an investigation of its premises as part of HSE's response to the outbreak of Legionnaires' disease along the Heads of the Valleys corridor in September 2010.

HSE inspectors visited the Penygarnddu Industrial Estate premises on 8 September 2010 and found that over a period of five weeks, the company had sporadically been operating a cooling tower on site without taking appropriate measures to control the risk of proliferation of the Legionella bacteria.

A Prohibition Notice was immediately served preventing the cooling tower from being used until all appropriate controls were put in place.

Merthyr Industrial Services (Biomass) Limited of Penygarnddu Industrial Estate, Merthyr Tydfil pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 8(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, and Regulation 3(1) of the Notification of Cooling Towers and Evaporative Condensers Regulations 1992.

Yesterday at Merthyr Tyfdil Magistrates' Court they were fined £600 and ordered to pay full costs of £8,577.

The Legionnaires' outbreak was declared on 3 September 2010 and was officially announced as over on 12 October 2010.

The multi-agency investigation revealed that no single source was identified for the outbreak, but investigations suggested a number of different possible sources accounted for the cases.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Stuart Charles said:

"While it is not alleged this company was one of the sources of the Legionnaires' disease outbreak last year, it is essential that companies operating cooling towers fully understand the risks of Legionella, and the steps they need to take to control that risk.

"Operating a cooling tower, even for short periods, without the proper controls in place can present a significant risk to employees and members of public.

"It is important companies comply with the legal requirement to notify Local Authorities if they are operating a cooling tower. If an outbreak occurs, this information is vital to the Outbreak Control Team when planning a response."

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain's national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to prevent death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Regulation 8(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 states that every employer who provides any control measure, other thing or facility in accordance with these Regulations shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that it is properly used or applied as the case may be.
  3. Regulation 3(1) of the Notification of Cooling Towers and Evaporative Condensers Regulations 1992 states that it shall be the duty of each person who has, to any extent, control of premises to ensure that no notifiable device is situated on those premises unless the information set out in the Schedule to these Regulations has been notified in writing, on a form approved for the time being for the purposes of these Regulations by the Health and Safety Executive, to the local authority in whose area the premises are situated.
  4. More information on Legionnaires' disease is available at www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires

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