A great, great grandfather died from exposure to legionella in a care home operated by Reading Borough Council, which led to the local authority being fined £100,000 with £20,000 costs.
The untimely death highlights the importance of effective control measures for all landlords or agencies. Otherwise another tragic incident such as that in Reading could occur, you could face legal action, a hefty fine, bad publicity and be held ultimately responsible for the death or ill-health of a client.
The Reading case highlights the horrors of what can happen if a problem occurs. Reading Borough Council was taken to court by the Health and Safety Executive after Lewis Payne, 95, died from exposure to legionella at The Willows care facility in 2012.
He had been in hospital with a broken leg and went to The Willows for intermediate care before he was due to return to his own home. However, he complained of shortness of breath, tightness in his chest and nausea during his stay.
He returned to hospital where he tested positive for legionella. Treatment for Legionnaire’s disease was started but he died on November 1, 2012, from pneumonia relating to legionella. Legionella is a bacterium which causes Legionnaire’s disease and can be present in central heating systems or air-conditioning.
The case heard in Reading Magistrates’ court. It became clear that legionella training for key personnel was below standard; there were inadequate temperature checks; and showers were not descaled and disinfected every three months among other problems. The HSE said the checking and flushing of tasks was left to the handyman who did not have adequate training and there was no-one to cover for him when he was absent.
A press release by the HSE said that the risks from legionella in nursing and care homes plus the measures needed to manage those risks had been publicised by the HSE since May 2000. The HSE said that it is important for care providers to make sure that hot and cold water systems are managed and checked for legionella.
Obviously no-one would wish to be in a similar position. Checks to make sure that legionella is not flourishing include carrying out a full risk assessment of hot and cold water systems, including measures such as making sure that the water is at the correct temperatures. The bacteria are dormant below 20ºC and cannot survive above 60ºC.
A competent person needs to be appointed to check, inspect and clean the water systems.
The most effective way to ensure that this is done is by carrying out regular legionella risk assessments and by having clear control measures in place. By using professional property inventory and inspection software, you can make that sure these checks are scheduled and carried out as and when they should be.
You will be able to diarise when checks need to be made and then instantly update your records when the inspection has taken place. These records will also show that the tests were made in a timely fashion, thereby providing an audit trail.