FIRMS could face “problems” complying with official guidance aimed at preventing outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease, safety chiefs warned yesterday.
A review of outbreaks over the past decade will be discussed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) tomorrow. It follows the recent cases in Edinburgh which have resulted in two deaths.
Pam Waldron, HSE director in Scotland, appeared before the health committee yesterday which is investigating the way authorities responded.
She said: “There is concern that compliance with the approved code of practice appears to be creating some problem, not just in Scotland but more broadly. We are actually reviewing our approved codes of practice at the moment. More importantly we have commissioned research by the health and safety laboratory into the last ten years of outbreaks so that we can see what lessons need to learned from that.
“That piece of work reports to HSE’s legionella committee on Thursday and the issue about compliance and how good compliance is, when we look to see what the standards are, will be something that we clearly need to look at very carefully.”
Investigations centre on a cluster of cooling towers in Wheatfield Road as the likely source, according to the team monitoring the outbreak.
Representatives of NHS Lothian and the city council joined Ms Waldron at the committee hearing in Holyrood.
MSPs heard concerns that water cooling towers should be eliminated where possible, while companies also do not have to tell the watchdog if legionella is found on their premises.
The committee heard that about half of cooling towers have been removed in Edinburgh since the last big outbreaks in 1994.
Ms Waldron added: “We do need to look at how difficult it is for people to comply. We would look at things like elimination of wet-cooling systems, for example, as a much better option.”
Meanwhile, an Edinburgh grandmother is fighting for her life after being struck down with legionnaires’ disease and airlifted to a hospital 300 miles away for emergency treatment. Anne Bennett, 60, was rushed to Leicester Royal Infirmary by air ambulance in the early hours of yesterday morning where she will remain in a medically-induced coma to boost her chances of recovery.
Mrs Bennett was sedated and incubated ahead of the 308-mile airlift to Leicester Royal Infirmary, which has specialist facilities for accommodating critically ill patients with induced comas.