The firms, Eaton Ltd, an automotive parts manufacturer and water treatment services provider, Aegis Ltd were prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The companies were ordered to pay almost £250,000 in fines and costs at Wolverhampton Crown Court.

HSE inspectors found Eaton Ltd had failed to properly manage the water cooling systems used in manufacturing processes at its plant in Thorns Road, Brierley Hill.

Aegis Ltd, which had been contracted to provide water treatment services (now trading from its Tamworth address as Aegis Water Treatment Ltd), was also found to have failed significantly in its duties.

There was no comprehensive and up-to-date risk assessment in place and neither company had taken reasonable steps to control the potential spread of Legionella by assessing the risk or properly cleaning and maintaining the water cooling system.

Employees had not been properly supervised. The management failings by both companies were found to be present over a prolonged period of time.

HSE principal inspector Paul Billinger said: “It is vital that companies who use water cooling treatment as part of their manufacturing processes have plans in place to make sure the level of Legionella bacteria in their systems does not become unsafe.

“Neither Eaton Ltd nor Aegis Ltd, which was specifically contracted to manage the water system, took the Legionella risk seriously. They failed to deal with their own risk assessment and service agreement in respect of cleaning the system.

“These were persistent and systemic failures, which put people’s health at risk.”

Alison Brown

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