Company fined £1.6m for Legionnaires’ outbreak and explosion

A car parts manufacturer has been fined £1.6 million after a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak and an explosion occurred at the same factory within a year. Both incidents took place at Faltec Europe Limited’s plant in Boldon.

Legionnaires’ disease
Between October 2014 and June 2015, two employees, two agency workers and a local resident fell seriously ill with Legionnaires’ Disease. An investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the illness was caused by Faltec’s failure to effectively manage its water cooling systems, including four cooling towers. This resulted in legionella bacteria growing to potentially lethal levels. Some of those affected suffered long-term ill-health as a result, while one victim was put into an induced coma.

The HSE served an immediate prohibition notice on Faltec on 5th June 2015, for failing to ensure that its water cooling towers were designed to prevent water stagnation and for failing to ensure the cooling towers and pipework were maintained in a clean condition. Improvement notices had also been served prior to the incident over failure to control the risks from legionella exposure.

Faltec Europe Limited pleaded guilty to breaches of Section 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £800,000.

The second incident occurred on 16th October 2015. A roller on one of the factory’s flocking lines became detached inside the enclosed machine. A 19 year operator attempted to recover the part by opening a hatch. However, the part made contact with the electrostatic grid creating a spark that set off a dust explosion. The operator sustained first degree burns to his face and arms.

A HSE investigation found Faltec had failed to implement control measures to protect its workers from risks related to explosive atmospheres, despite explosions having previously occurred at the factory. Improvement notices had been served prior to the incident as access was possible to dangerous moving parts of the co-extrusion line and the flocking line.

Faltec Europe Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and was fined £800,000.

In addition to total fines of £1.6 million for the two incidents, the company was ordered to pay costs of £75,159 and a victim surcharge of £120.

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