The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has recently issued a number of enforcement notices on drycleaning companies operating cooling towers, reports the Fabric Care Research Association.

Inspectors have typically required cooling towers to be taken out of service immediately, pending improvements in cleaning and maintenance.

This news comes in the wake of a warning from HSE to all employers that they risk stiff penalties if they fail to ensure the regular cleaning and maintenance of cooling towers to minimise the risk of Legionnaires’ Disease.

A prosecution at Swansea Court in June this year resulted in fines totalling £85 000 and costs of £40 000 for the employer company, its managing director and two water treatment companies, reports the FCRA.

Charges were brought following investigation into a number of cases of Legionnaires’ Disease, including one death.

The FCRA informs that cooling towers at drycleaners’ premises have been discovered with severe growths of algae, slime, corrosion and scale. In some cases, disinfection procedures have consisted merely of draining the reservoir routinely and topping up with fresh water and bleach.

This, the FCRA warns, is completely out of step with modern day standards. The HSE has made it clear that they will not hesitate to prosecute companies operating towers under these conditions.

Operators of cooling towers, evaporative condensers and other plants presenting a risk of legionellosis are responsible for carrying duties, that are laid down in the Health and Safety Commission’s Approved Code of Practice and accompanying guidance.

Unless in-house expertise is available, says the FCRA, any drycleaner operating a cooling tower will need specialist help in deciding what specific steps are necessary, though the ultimate responsibility for managing the risks will stay with them.

The threat of Legionnaires’ disease and related infections is frequently a matter of public concern. The FCRA concludes that the drycleaning industry cannot be found wanting in this respect.