Legionella fatality raises wider safety concerns

The Chartered Institute of Plumbing & Heating Engineering (CIPHE) has issued a warning about the growing number of cases of Legionnaires’ disease, in the wake of the death of Elaine Brown, a 69 year-old grandmother of four, from Liverpool.

Mrs Brown, a retired health and safety officer, died in August following a fatal stroke triggered by Legionnaires’ disease (LD). She had contracted the illness while staying at The Feathers Hotel in Ludlow, Shropshire.

It has now come to light that another of the hotel’s guests, a woman in her 70s, had also contracted LD from the same establishment back in April. She subsequently recovered from the illness.

The BBC reported that Mrs Brown and her husband Graham stayed at the hotel on 31 July as part of a coach tour, and they booked their stay without any knowledge of the previous case.

“If we had been told about the case of Legionnaires’ disease in April, there is absolutely no chance that we would have stayed there,” Graham Brown said.

Mrs Brown’s family has instructed law firm Irwin Mitchell to take legal action. Jatinder Paul, Associate Solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, said the family were angry because they felt Mrs Brown’s death was ‘avoidable’.

While the local authority had issued the hotel with an improvement notice following the first discovery in April, the second outbreak is leading to questions regarding the standard and quality of the remedial work carried out on the hotel’s water system. The hotel closed while its plumbing system was overhauled and said it hoped to reopen on 13th November. The hotel’s most recent Facebook post (14 November) confirmed that it has received the all-clear and now has permission to reopen.

CEO Kevin Wellman said, “Our thoughts are with the family on the tragic passing of Mrs Brown. Those of us in the industry know that Legionnaires’ disease is a risk that can be managed effectively by qualified and competent plumbing professionals working to industry standards and Regulations.”

As the professional body for the industry, the CIPHE is alarmed that cases of Legionnaires’ disease are on the increase. Government figures show that in 2016 there were 496 reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease, however this year has seen a rise, with 522 reported cases already by October 2017.

Kevin continues: “Annual deaths caused by poor plumbing now outnumber those caused by carbon monoxide related incidents, but still there is no formal regulation of those who can call themselves a plumber. The CIPHE (and our Safe Water Group in particular) have been concerned about this risk for some time, hence the publication of the Safe Water Guide: Scald Prevention and Legionella, in March 2017. We strongly advise that all of those in the industry increase their knowledge on managing Legionella to help reverse this upward trend.”

To find out more about Legionella and Legionnaires disease, visit the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/ and the Water Safety section of the CIPHE’s techtalk website at https://techtalk-ciphe.org.uk/water-safety/

‘The Safe Water Guide: Scald Prevention and Legionella’ can be purchased from the CIPHE by emailing info@ciphe.org.uk

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