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07.12.18

Council fined thousands after pleading guilty to ‘catastrophic’ disease outbreak

Tendring District Council has been fined £27,000 after the local authority pleaded guilty to a health and safety breach when an outbreak of Legionnaires disease left a man fighting for his life.

The district council was fined by Colchester Magistrates Court after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found “catastrophic failure” at the Lifestyles leisure centre Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex.

Graham Leach, a customer at the leisure centre, contracted Legionnaires’ disease in November 2016 after using the shower, the magistrates court heard.

District judge John Woollard said the council’s fine would have been 10 times higher had it not been a public body, and called the situation “a fairly catastrophic failure on their part to manage council facilities.”

“I see from the hospital that treated Mr Leach that he was close to death, had they not treated him in time,” he added.

The district council apologised to Leach and said it had since improved processes for managing Legionella risk.

Matthew Taylor, prosecuting, told the court that had been the case for nearly 10 years from 2007 and said its Legionella controls were “poorly implemented.”

But council chief executive Ian Davidson said: “I would like to reassure the public, and particularly our leisure centre customers, that our leisure centres are safe.

“We deeply regret that standards fell below the high level that we hold ourselves to, and we know which the public expect from us.”

He said the fine would impact upon the council’s budgets but promised that the authority would attempt to mitigate the knock-on effect to the taxpayer.

Image credit - jarun011

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