Car parts firm admits causing Legionnaires' Disease outbreak AND charges over explosion at plant

A Boldon company has admitted charges relating to an outbreak of potentially deadly Legionnaires' Disease and an explosion at its premises.

Faltec Europe's Boldon plant
Faltec Europe's Boldon plant

Faltec Europe Ltd appeared at Sunderland Magistrates Court yesterday afternoon to face three charges brought in relation to two separate investigations by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at its plant in Didcot Way, Boldon Business Park.

The car components factory hit the headlines in 2015, when it was at the centre of the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak.

Cooling tower at Faltec, Boldon.

It was ordered to shut down four cooling towers by the HSE after significant levels of the potentially-lethal bacteria were discovered on site.

Four workers at the factory and a nearby resident required hospital treatment after contracting the disease between October 2014 and May 2015.

The factory was given the all clear in September 2015 after the company put in place significant safety improvement measures.

Faltec faces two charges under Sections 3 and 33 of the Health and Safety at Work Act relating to the period between October 1, 2014 and June 6, 2015.

Cooling tower at Faltec, Boldon.

The first relates to failure to ensure that non-employees were not exposed to health and safety risks, while the second relates to people employed by the company – ‘including, but not limited to, Stephen Wallace and Colin Bell’.

The second HSE investigation relates to the control of fire and explosion risks following an explosion at the plant, on October 16, 2015, which injured a 20-year-old employee.

The charge states the company ‘failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees, including, but not limited to Luke Haswell, in relation to risks from fire and explosion during the operation of the flocking lines.’

Barrister David Hercock entered guilty pleas to all three charges on behalf of the firm.

District Judge Roger Elsey said his sentencing powers sitting in a magistrates’ court were insufficient and he was going to commit the case to crown court for sentence.

“Given the limit of my powers in the Legionella case, I am going to commit all matters to the Crown Court at Newcastle upon Tyne for sentence,” he said.

All three charges were adjourned for four weeks and the case has been listed to resume at Newcastle Crown Court on Monday, April 3.