Two people have been sentenced after failing to control the risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria in the cooling tower at their business premises in Spring Hill, Birmingham.
Birmingham Magistrates’ Court heard that, between June 2017 and February 2018, Kulwant Singh Chatha and partner Satpaul Kaur Chatha of Isher Hangers failed to put suitable measures in place to control the risk of Legionella bacteria from the cooling tower on their premises. Concerns raised by their own water treatment consultants were ignored, and no Legionella risk assessments were in place.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the cooling tower was not being managed to control the risk from Legionella bacteria. This failure exposed employees of Isher Hangers, as well as members of the public, to Legionellosis – a collective term for diseases caused by the bacteria including Legionnaires’ disease, which can be fatal. People who have underlying or current medical issues are especially susceptible to infection, which was a particular concern as Isher Hangers’ premises are in the vicinity of two major hospitals.
Kulwant Singh Chatha and Satpaul Kaur Chatha pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and were each sentenced to serve 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay costs of £12,115 each, including a victim surcharge of £115.
Speaking after the case, HSE inspector Karen Sweeney said, ‘Isher Hangers were operating a cooling tower without biocide, ignoring the advice of their own consultants. Cooling towers have the potential to spread bacteria that can cause serious illness or death, if not maintained in accordance with the published guidelines.
Fine slashed from £3million to £1.5 million
Bupa Care Homes has won an appeal against a £3 million fine imposed over the death of an 86-year-old man in Essex from Legionnaires’ disease. Kenneth Ibbetson died after contracting the disease while living at the Hutton Village Nursing Home in Brentwood (pictured) in March 2015, less than three months after he moved there.
A judge at Ipswich Crown Court concluded that the most likely cause of his infection was the failure to flush and disinfect pipes at the home following refurbishment work shortly before Mr Ibbotson became a resident. Bupa Care Homes admitted breaching health and safety rules and was handed the hefty fine, plus an order to pay legal costs of more than £150,000, in June 2018. But the fine was slashed to £1.5 million in a ruling at the Court of Appeal. Mr Justice Julian Knowles, sitting with two other leading judges, said the Crown Court judge had wrongly taken the much larger profits of Bupa Care Homes’ parent company into consideration when setting the fine.
He added: “The defendant in this case was Bupa Care Homes and the offence in question arose out of its breaches of duty. “It did not delegate these to its parent. It alone bore criminal liability.”
The judge said nothing in the ruling was “intended to minimise the loss” that Mr Ibbotson’s family have suffered.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) brought the prosecution against Bupa Care Homes following Mr Ibbotson’s death.
Speaking at the time of the original fine, HSE principal inspector Vicky Fletcher said: “It is heart-breaking to think Kenneth contracted Legionnaires’ a matter of weeks after moving into the Hutton Village care home. “His family have been left devastated by his sudden death.”
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