Health & Safety Executive regulations mean it is legally your company’s basic responsibility to protect staff and customers from the dangers of the potentially fatal legionella bacteria.
The HSE states that, someone in your company must be put in control of legionella risk assessment at your premises and that, in order to comply with the law, it is their responsibility to:
- identify and assess sources of risk
- manage any risks
- prevent or control any risks
- keep and maintain the correct records
The high cost of an outbreak
The human cost of Legionnaires’ disease means that any outbreak can also cause great harm to your company in terms of reputation and finances. Fatal cases always attract press attention. In June, Jet2 was featured in national newspapers after the deaths of two holidaymakers who stayed in a hotel used by the tour operator. And this month, the same company paid a five-figure out-of-court settlement to another holidaymaker who contracted the disease while on holiday in 2015.
The reputational damage caused by an outbreak could stay with your business for many years, with unquantifiable losses to your bottom line. Your company could also find itself facing hefty fines as a result and the prospect of being sued by affected families, forcing you to pay legal costs as well as any payouts. In severe cases, your company could go out of business.
You will also have to take emergency action to get rid of the bacteria from your premises, which will obviously cost your business money, including potential loss of revenue if you need to close whilst work is carried out. Landlords, care homes and healthcare companies may have the additional cost of rehousing tenants, residents and patients.
As a recent illustration of how regular risk assessments can protect your company, after testing, one Leeds care home discovered the legionella bacteria in its water system. The company took immediate remedial action to rectify the situation without any harm coming to the residents of the care home and without the need to find new care homes for them. Once alerted to the problem, the owners of the company had to rely on the goodwill of staff and a time-consuming PR campaign to save the care home, but things would have been far worse had they not had that test.
Regular legionella testing is not only legally required, it is essential for the profitability – and potentially the survival – of your company.