13th September 2016 – 

G4S Cash Solutions has been fined £1.8 million for failing to protect its workers from Legionnaires’ disease.

Harlow Council took action in October 2013 following a report a worker had contracted the serious lung infection which causes flu-like symptoms. It is chiefly spread by water droplets through air conditioning systems.

Town Hall’s environmental health officers could not prove the Harlow worker had contracted the disease through the site.

However, searches uncovered a serious lack of compliance in maintaining water systems at the workplace.

Harlow Council began prosecution proceedings and G4S pled guilty to two charges under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act on June 20.

At their sentencing on Friday the Chelmsford Crown Court judge fined G4S and also ordered the international firm to pay Harlow Council court costs of £34,000.

A council spokesman said:

“The environmental health officers found monitoring and testing of systems was erratic. Staff had received inadequate training and there were no up to date policies or suitable and sufficient risk assessments in place to safely operate or manage the building’s water systems. G4S did not take steps required to reduce the risk of Legionnaires’ disease from its water systems. This was despite a long-standing duty, extensive guidance, advice from their own consultants and advice from Harlow Council.”

Representatives from G4S, who employ 200 people at their Harlow site, told the court they have since taken a number of measures to improve health and safety.

Councillor Danny Purton, portfolio holder for environment, said: “The health and safety of our citizens is our number one priority.

“The council will always encourage employers to make improvements that protect their workers.

“However, there are cases where if necessary, we will prosecute because you simply can’t play with people’s lives.”

He added: “Although some improvements were made it took G4S almost three years to reach minimum standards to protect its staff and visitors from exposure to Legionella bacteria.

“The fine should send a message to other companies. Legionnaires’ disease is a real risk and companies need to take their health and safety duties to their employees and others seriously.” 

Graham Levinsohn, G4S chief executive for Europe, said: “We regret that in 2013 the water management process at the Harlow Cash Centre was substandard and improvements should have been made promptly once this issue was identified.

“While the risk of harm was low and no cases of illness were found to have been caused by the water at the site, we have fundamentally overhauled the approach to managing water systems since 2013. The regime of water management introduced across all our cash centres since is now industry leading and we are confident that a failing like this will not recur.”