Local authority sentenced after member of public contracts Legionnaires’ Disease

A District Council has been fined after a member of public contracted Legionnaires’ Disease having been a regular user of its leisure centre facilities.

The Magistrates’ Court heard how the member of public frequently used the showers at the leisure centre when, in November 2016, he fell seriously ill and was taken to hospital where he remained for 18 days. He was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, sepsis, pneumonia and chronic kidney failure.

Water samples taken from the men’s shower tested positive for the legionella bacteria. Legionella bacteria can proliferate in hot and cold water systems that aren’t properly maintained or cleaned.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the District Council had failed to adequately manage the water systems at a number of leisure centres in the district. The significant failings included not having suitable and sufficient Legionella Risk Assessments for the leisure facilities and not providing adequate control measures required for Legionella control. Staff were not adequately trained and a lack of monitoring meant these failings went unnoticed for several months.

The District Council pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and has been fined £ 27,000 and ordered to pay costs of £ 7,500.

Speaking after the case, an HSE inspector said: “Hot and cold water systems can provide the ideal breeding ground for the potentially fatal legionella bacteria if certain control measures are not in place. Controls such as maintaining water temperatures, regular flushing of low-use outlets and adequate cleaning are all necessary in order to reduce the risk of legionella developing.

“The District Council failed to ensure controls such as these being implemented therefore causing a potential risk to human health. This could have easily been a fatality and given the number of people who use the facilities, the potential legionella risk to the public would have been significant.”