Hotel operator fined £54K for hot tub bug outbreak

A popular hotel chain has been fined following the outbreak of Legionella bacteria in a hot tub, the result of which affected dozens of staff and guests on the premises.

BDL Select Operations Ltd, the firm which operates the hotel in question, was fined £54,000 following the outbreak. In total, the bacteria outbreak led to 65 people being taken ill, 18 of which were confirmed to have contracted Pontiac Fever — a non-fatal illness normally associated with Legionnaire’s disease, a much more serious condition.

According to Dundee Sheriff Court, designated safety checks at the hotel’s leisure pool and spa were not being carried out on a consistent, regular basis ahead of the outbreak — something BDL Select Operations says is a result of the spa’s manager being sacked in January 2011.

Following this dismissal, reports show that the hot tub was not adequately drained, disinfected and cleaned for over two months before the Legionella outbreak. On top of this, ‘backwashing’ maintenance to the tub’s filters was only carried out five times during a 12 day period — despite industry advice stipulating that such cleaning should be carried out on a daily basis.

This negligence subsequently allowed the Legionella bacteria to proliferate, later becoming airborne on account of the water stagnating. Once airborne, the bug spread to other areas of the spa, including the showers and the pool itself, exposing more guests and staff to the infection.

Emma Stewart, fiscal depute, told Dundee Sheriff Court that water samples taken from various parts of the hotel were found to contain traces of the Legionella bacteria.

She said: “An investigation was undertaken and the spa pool was later decommissioned entirely. Some staff were trained how to test water but had little knowledge on how to interpret the results. No information was made available to staff in that regard.”

So, how can businesses in the hospitality sector prevent a legionella outbreak like the one detailed above? We’d recommend reading Health and Safety Executive’s brilliant in-depth guide on managing legionella bacteria in hot and cold water systems, which can be accessed, here.

Alternatively, Shieldyourself can help you to prevent the spread of bugs and bacteria on your premises by performing a comprehensive risk assessment and audit of your workplace practices. To find out more, visit the Shieldyourself website or call us on 020 3355 2970.

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