07 June 2012
Legionnaires outbreak may have been avoidable
Another regrettable death from Legionnaires' disease indicates that poor maintenance regimes or complacency are still too prevalent, according to B&ES (the Building & Engineering Services Association).
Referring to the tragic death of a man in his 50s from Legionnaires' disease whilst being treated at Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, B&ES says more needs to be done to combat this ever-present threat.
Health authorities in Scotland believe that this outbreak was probably caused by a cooling tower in the south west of the city.
But Blane Judd, chief executive of B&ES, explains that deaths from Legionnaires' are not uncommon, pointing to the tragic outbreak in 2002 in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, where seven people died and a further 180 wre taken ill.
"On average there are approximately 300 reported cases of Legionnaires' disease each year in the UK and when clusters of cases occur they can typically be traced back to poorly maintained cooling tower systems, air conditioning plant or hot and cold water systems in offices, factories, hotels, hospitals and other larger establishments," states Judd.
"Legionnaires' disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia but it is possible to significantly reduce the risk of creating the conditions in which the legionella bacteria thrive by taking important measures, such as a programme of regular inspection and maintenance of susceptible plant and equipment, including regular cleaning and disinfection," he continues.
"Building owners and occupiers should be aware of, and comply with, their legal obligations, and these are set out in a single document, published by the Health and Safety Commission (HSC), called 'Legionnaires' disease: the control of legionella bacteria in water systems'. This is a HSC Approved Code of Practice (ACoP), commonly referred to as L8."
Water temperature between 20°C and 50°C is the range in which legionella bacteria proliferate most rapidly, with the optimum temperature believed to be 37°C. Legionella bacteria are, however, killed within a few minutes at water temperatures above 60°C.
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