Company handed £160k court bill after worker contracts blood infection at contaminated lake

A company has been handed a court bill of more than £160,000 after an employee became seriously ill when he contracted a blood infection while working at a lake contaminated with sewage in Staffordshire.

Cannock Magistrates' Court
Cannock Magistrates' Court

The unnamed man was working for Adler and Allan Ltd, a supplier of environmental risk services, during a clean-up operation at a lake near Churchbridge, Cannock, in June 2019.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said that dead fish had to be cleaned out of the lake after it was contaminated with sewage when a nearby pipe burst.

The employee worked at the lake for two weeks before contracting Leptospirosis – Weil’s Disease – and became seriously ill.

The infection led to the man having a rash across his whole body meaning he had to limit contact with his family.

His kidney and liver also had to be monitored.

He was given antibiotics and did not make a full recovery for around four months.

An investigation by the HSE found there was a serious risk of ill health to employees at the site as there were inadequate hygiene provisions in place to suitably guard against bacteriological and pathogen infection.

During around the first two weeks of the job, there were no on-site toilets or welfare units available to the company’s employees.

This led to workers using a local supermarket to wash and go to the toilet.

HSE said there was also a lack of supervision at the site, with the company also failing to conduct a suitable risk assessment and implement an appropriate system of work.

Adler and Allan Limited of Station Parade, Harrogate, Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety Act 1974 and Regulation 20(1) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

The company was fined £126,100 and ordered to pay costs of £43,494 at Cannock Magistrates’ Court on November 29.

HSE inspector Lyn Mizen said: “This serious ill health matter could have been avoided if the clearly foreseeable risks and dangers had been appropriately controlled and managed, right from the outset.

“Portable welfare units can be easily sourced and are clearly needed for heavily contaminated work situations such as this.

“HSE will not hesitate to hold duty holders to account if they fall short of appropriate welfare standards.”

A spokesman for Adler and Allan Limited said: "We have received a judgement in a health and safety case, relating to an incident in 2019.

"Following work on a client site, an employee of Adler and Allan contracted leptospirosis.

"It was ruled that although significant efforts were made to address the risk, a short delay in getting a welfare van to site meant we did not meet the high standards we set ourselves on this occasion. We cooperated fully with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the event and undertook all required rectifying work.

"The health and safety of our people is one of our core values. We take this extremely seriously, continually investing in our SHEQ capability, ensuring that all relevant policies are in place and adhered to, the correct PPE is issued and used, and employees are provided with training that always meets or exceeds regulatory requirement.”

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