Legionnaires’ outbreak: Second Edinburgh firm given Improvement Notices

The Gorgie area was affected by the outbreak. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The Gorgie area was affected by the outbreak. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A SECOND company being investigated as one of the potential sources of the lethal outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease has been issued with health and safety warnings.

• Six more confirmed and suspected cases of Legionnaires’ bug taking total number of patients to 88

• Macfarlan Smith Ltd issued with two Improvement Notices regarding health and safety

• Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon confirms rise in cases to be expected given 14-day incubation period

The move came as news of six more confirmed and suspected cases of the bug were revealed – three times more than the previous day – taking the total number of patients to 88.

Fourteen people are now being treated for the disease in intensive care wards and a further 26 on general wards.

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Macfarlan Smith Ltd was today issued with two Improvement Notices – one relating to the cleaning of one of its cooling towers and the other relating to the provision of access for inspection and maintenance of the same tower in the Gorgie area of Edinburgh.

The move comes three days after another company, North British Distillery Company, was told by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) it had failed to devise and implement a “sustained and effective” biocide control programme in one of its cooling towers.

The HSE said its experts would be visiting the other four sites under investigation as possible sources for the outbreak which has already claimed the life of 56-year-old Robert Air.

Four of the sites are in the south west of Edinburgh. HSE inspectors have also made a “precautionary visit” to the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street, outwith this area, but raised no immediate concerns.

Commenting on the notice to Macfarlan Smith, a HSE spokeswoman said: “The Improvement Notices have been served because the company has allegedly failed to maintain their control measures for the safe operation of the cooling tower to the required standard.

“It does not indicate an immediate risk from legionella, as this was being controlled by the emergency dosing of chemicals and the company’s subsequent voluntary shutdown of the cooling tower.”

A spokeswoman for Mcfarlan Smith said the company had shut down a small cooling tower at its Edinburgh site as a precaution following a visit by HSE inspectors on Sunday.

She said: “We continue to work closely with the HSE in their investigations. The health and safety of our employees and the local community remains our highest priority. Our thoughts are with the individuals and families affected.”

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the rise in cases, from 82 to 88, was to be expected given the bug’s two-week incubation period.

She said: “With a 14 day incubation period, we would expect there to be fluctuations over the next week or so.

“NHS Lothian services are coping with the demands and the City of Edinburgh Council and the Health and Safety Executive continue to make significant progress in their investigation to identify the source of this outbreak.”

There are now 39 confirmed cases of the disease and 49 suspected. Seven people are being treated outwith Edinburgh.