It has been reported by the Health and Safety Executive  that Lanarkshire Health Board has been fined £24,000 after a breach of s.3 of the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 (HSWA 1974) led to a patient contracting Legionnaire’s disease and subsequently to her becoming extremely unwell.

A HSE investigation found that the patient had been admitted to Wishaw Hospital in November 2008 suffering from pneumonia, severe sepsis and Legionnaire’s disease. The HSE team subsequently found that Hartwood Hospital had Legionnaire’s bacteria present in at least three areas in the water system of the hospital. Two of those three sources (one being a communal shower that the patient had used) matched the strain of Legionnaire’s that the patient had.

Building works had been taking place at Hartwood Hospital, from which dirt and debris would have provided nutrients to the bacteria. The HSE investigation further found that the hospital had failed to carry out a risk assessment relating to potential issues that the building work could have caused, including the possibility of the water supply becoming infected.

It is therefore very important that risk assessments should be carried out regularly in particular institutions when there is a change in activity which could potentially (however remotely) cause harm to employees or users of the facilities. Failure to do so could render the Hospital liable under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

It is assumed that the patient herself is pursuing a claim for negligence and potentially a breach of the Occupier’s Liability Act 1957.

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