Care home ordered to pay £40,000 after failing to control Legionella risk

Mother Redcaps Care Home prosecuted by Health and Safety Executive after failing to act on enforcement notice

A private care home in Wallasey, Merseyside, has been ordered to pay £40,000 in fines and costs after it failed to manage the risk of elderly residents catching a potentially-fatal strain of pneumonia.

Mother Redcaps Care Home was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after failing to comply with an Improvement Notice to assess the risk of Legionella on the premises.

Elderly people and those with poor health are particularly susceptible to Legionnaires' disease so the company should have done more to assess and control the risks, making sure lives weren’t put in danger

Liverpool Crown Court heard that the care home did not have a system in place for managing its hot and cold water systems.

It was first served with a notice to carry out improvements in November 2011 following a visit from an HSE inspector and was given two extensions to a deadline to comply. However, the court was told it had still failed to carry out a ‘suitable and sufficient’ risk assessment by May 2012, despite being offered help and guidance on what was required.

Without proper controls, Legionella bacteria can build up in water systems where the temperature is between 20-45 degrees Celcius, creating a risk that small droplets containing the bacteria could be breathed in when water becomes airborne, such as in showers.

The court heard that up to 50 residents, as well as staff, could have been at risk if the bacteria had been present.

Mother Redcaps Care Home was fined £6,525 and ordered to pay £33,475 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector, Phil Redman, said: “While there is no evidence that residents or members of staff were exposed to Legionella bacteria, there was a clear and inexcusable failure to properly assess and control the risk.

“Elderly people and those with poor health are particularly susceptible to Legionnaires' disease so the company should have done more to assess and control the risks, making sure lives weren’t put in danger.

This case should act as a warning to firms that they will find themselves in court if they ignore enforcement notices

“We gave Mother Redcaps several opportunities to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment after it received the Improvement Notice, but it failed to satisfy the requirements.

“This case should act as a warning to firms that they will find themselves in court if they ignore enforcement notices.”

Legionnaires' disease is caused by bacteria found naturally in rivers, lakes and reservoirs, but these bugs can multiply and become dangerous in some purpose-built water systems.

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