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Legionnaire’s Disease firm tells of regret over worker illnesses and injury

The Faltec factory in East Boldon
The Faltec factory in East Boldon

A firm which was ordered to pay £1.6m for safety failings which left six people hurt or injured has extressed its regret.

Boldon-based Faltec Europe Ltd admitted to health and safety flaws which led led to five people being infecting with Legionnaire’s Disease and another being badly burned in a ‘fireball’.

After being fined at Newcastle Crown Court, the company confessed to not acting quickly enough to prevent the incidents.

But it claimed it had since spent £4m upgrading the workplace and that a ‘world-class’ standard now operated.

In court court it was described as having a “woeful and flagrant disregard” for health and safety in the year to October 2015.

The period saw two staff members, two agency workers and a neighbouring householder caught up in the potentially fatal Legionella outbreak.

One was so poorly that they were left in an induced coma for 10 days.

While a health and safety inquiry was progressing, a 19-year-old employee suffered first degree burns after a flocking machine exploded next to him. His injuries were such that doctors placed him in a coma.

In a statement, Faltec said: “As the court heard, we were already addressing the problems which gave rise to these incidents before they happened, and we deeply regret that we were not quick enough to prevent them.

“Since then, we have put further significant safety measure improvements in place at a cost of £4m.

“Our water management system is now a world-class standard and further safeguards in the manufacturing process have been put in place.”

Faltec, which employs 573 people and has a turnover of £39m, operates from Boldon Business Park, Boldon Colliery.

The Health and Safety Executive, which investigated the incidents, said the impact on those affected had been “major” and that some were suffering long-term ill health.

In a joint statement, inspectors Fiona McGarry and Michael Kingston said: “In addition, the incidents raised concern amongst other employees and the local community.

“Supported by colleagues from Public Health England and South Tyneside Council, HSE investigated and identified breaches in both cases.

“Legionnaires’ disease is a relatively uncommon, but potentially fatal form of pneumonia.

“When water systems are not properly controlled and maintained there is a risk of exposing both employees and the wider community to Legionella bacteria.”

They said improved control measures had now been implemented by the company to better manage Legionella risks.