Lax enforcement and minimal awareness of vital hygiene regulations in both private and public buildings run huge risks with the health of people in Scotland, a leading Scottish facilities maintenance expert has warned.
Colin Chambers, managing director of Hamilton-based Platinum Facilities Maintenance, believes that properties in Scotland are vulnerable due to a lax enforcement regime and an almost universal ignorance of the legal requirements in both the private and public sectors.
He said: “Regular inspection simply doesn’t happen, and the risks are unacceptable. I have been in this sector a while now, but I am still shocked, quite regularly, by the bacteria that is trapped in all too many, water tanks because regular mandatory checks do not take place.”
His warning follows reports of a £27,000 fine imposed earlier this month on Tendring District Council in Essex following a Legionella incident in 2016 at a council-run leisure centre at Walton-on-the-Naze in which a man almost died. The court was told that after a Council decision to bring Legionella controls in-house, those responsible were not properly trained.
And in a statement which is sure to focus the minds of owners of all privately-run sports and leisure facilities throughout the UK, District Judge John Woollard said Tendring District Council’s fine would have been ten times greater had it not been a public body.
Every organization in the UK with over five employees is legally obliged to carry out annual risk assessments, monthly monitoring and regular checks to ensure that no stagnant water, the source of Legionella, is present in their buildings’ systems.
The legal obligations on property owners, introduced by the Health and Safety Executive, (HSE) are aimed at making all non-domestic buildings in Scotland safe and clean environments.
Mr Chambers said: “I worry about the reality of what we see every day in our built environment. Both Scottish and UK governments, as well as local authorities and the various agencies like the Health and Safety Executive need to beef-up substantially their inspection regimes for compliance with building regulations and hygiene standards in water tanks.
“It surprises me that we have not seen more outbreaks of Legionella and other infections in Scotland because the bacteria involved in stagnant water tanks breeds wonderfully well in polluted environments, and if you have a neglected water tank, in a hotel, a leisure centre, a golf club or a nursing home, it will build up horribly”.
Mr. Chambers, whose business provides regular facilities maintenance programmes for a range of customers in both the public and private sectors, is also warning non-domestic buildings owners that failure to undertake full inspections, cleaning and maintenance of ventilation systems can have severe financial consequences when disaster strikes.
“I have seen instances of insurance claims for damage being pared down significantly from 100 per cent to just that which reflects the proportion of the inspection and maintenance work that has been carried out on the system, and that financial shortfall can be fatal for business continuity.
“Non-domestic property owners have a duty of care towards the public and need to be aware of the cost and time implications non-compliance with the regulations could have for their companies.
“They need to monitor water temperatures closely, carry-out visual inspections and make sure that their water tanks are cleaned regularly. If in doubt they should seek expert guidance to help mitigate the more damaging potential threats.”