Kepak fined for employee illness

Kepak UK has been fined a total of £45,000 after two employees at one of its butchery plants in Preston caught Legionnaires’ Disease.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety regulations during a hearing before Preston Crown Court.

The court was told that two workers at the plant, one a boner and one a packer, were diagnosed with the disease in 2006. The HSE then began an investigation and discovered that water points at the plant were infected with the bacteria.

In mitigation, it was said that Kepak closed the plant, one of two in the area, following the incident and has still not re-opened it. The company was fined £25,000 with £20,000 costs.

After the case HSE principal inspector Dorothy Shaw commented: “Kepak failed to carry out simple checks on the hot and cold water system. As a result, many of its employees working at the site were potentially exposed to the legionella bacteria, and two individuals were made seriously ill.

“Any system containing water at temperatures between 20˚C and 45˚C, and which may release an aerosol during operation or maintenance, presents a forseeable risk of exposure to legionella bacteria.

“Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal illness and, had the correct procedures been in place, the outbreak at Kepak’s premises would not have occurred. Legionella bacteria can build up in purpose-built water systems and, if conditions are favourable, the bacteria can multiply, increasing the risk.

“A risk assessment had been carried out in May 2001, which set out that simple and periodic checks should be carried out on Kepak’s domestic water system, and that the control measures should be monitored and reviewed. But this did not happen.”

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