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DIY chain fined £1m after 2 legionella deaths

A DIY chain has been fined £1 million after its hot tub display sparked an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease which killed two men.

Customer William Hammersley, 79, and delivery driver Richard Griffin, 64, died after breathing in infected water droplets from the display at the store in Stoke-on-Trent.

In total, 21 people were struck down by the outbreak in July 2012 at discount warehouse JTF Wholesale.

Legionnaires’ Disease is a lung infection caused by the bacteria legionella, which is found in water and thrives in temperatures of 30C to 40C.

JTF Wholesale Limited has today been fined £1million after it admitted one charge of failing to ensure people’s safety contrary to the 1974 Health and Safety Act.

It also admitted responsibility for 19 other people contracting the disease during the outbreak. It denied corporate manslaughter.

Mrs Justice Andrews DBE said: “This was a serious breach of a high duty of care which put many people, and not just those who contracted the disease, at risk of death or serious illness for a period of around five months.

“The risk arose despite some efforts, albeit inadequate ones, having been made to safeguard against it.”

Father-of-two Mr Griffin, of Clayton, Staffordshire, worked for his brother’s meat business and delivered to the cafe within the JTF store before he was taken ill with headaches, fever and hallucinations.

Prosecutor Andrew Thomas QC said: “He went to the store every day and had not had a day off through illness in 35 years.

“He went off ill on July 18 and was found dead on July 23.”

Mr Hammersley, of Chesterton, Staffs., had been in hospital with pneumonia before he was discharged and went on a shopping trip to JTF with his wife.

Mr Thomas added: “The day after the visit to JTF both he and his wife started to feel ill.

“His wife was seriously ill and was discharged from hospital the day before her husband died. She only got to see him briefly.”

The families of Mr Hammersley and Mr Griffin accused JTF of hiding “behind a wall of silence.”

A statement, released by the police on behalf of the families, said: “The past five years have been extremely difficult, we have had to endure years of not knowing who was responsible for the outbreak of Legionnaires Disease at The JTF store in Fenton that had such tragic consequences for us all.

“JTF have hid behind a wall of silence all these years before finally admitting that they were to blame, not only for infecting all those innocent people but to causing the premature deaths of our loved ones.

“The company has remained faceless throughout, not once have they offered us an apology or showed any compassion towards us.

“Words cannot express the huge void that has been left in each and every one of us that could only be filled by having that Husband, Dad, Brother, Grandad and Great Grandad back with us.

“One of those left behind is getting married this year but her father won’t be there walking her down the aisle, that’s the reality.”

Speaking after the sentence, Detective Inspector Glyn Pattinson, of Staffordshire Police, said: “I hope today’s sentence brings some comfort to the families of Richard and William, and all those who fell ill as a result of JTF’s actions.

“JTF neglected its health and safety responsibilities and as a result has been handed a significant financial penalty.

“This should serve as a warning to other businesses – be clear on your duty of care.”

In a statement, the JTF Wholesale said: “JTF has pleaded guilty to a breach of health and safety legislation relating to the Stoke-on-Trent legionella outbreak in 2012.

“The business apologises unreservedly for the failings back then that had such devastating consequences.

“Since 2012, a completely new board of directors and senior management team have been appointed and tasked to undertake a continuous and thorough review of the way in which the company manages its business; in particular, health and safety.

“A rigorous and extensive review of the company’s health and safety controls, management procedures and risk assessments has been completed.

“The business considers the health and safety of its customers and employees as its top priority at all times.

“The company is dedicated and committed to investing in the training of its employees and fostering a positive health and safety culture across the business.

“Again, JTF wishes to extend its sympathy and deepest regret for the events which occurred in 2012 and to all those affected.”

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