Today I heard that a second victim had died of Legionella in Edinburgh.
So far the total number of confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease has reached 41, and the number of suspected cases currently stands at 48. Sixteen water-cooling towers in the southwest of Edinburgh have been treated with a range of chemicals to kill any bacteria but the source of the infection has not yet been found.
As business continuity people this is just one more risk that we need to be thinking about. There are a number of wider lessons which come from this incident.
1. Good housekeeping prevents incidents. Legionella can be prevented by treating cooling towers regularly with chemicals to prevent the build up of the bacteria. If this is done regularly and properly there should be no chance of it occurring in one of your buildings.
2. If your organisation was found to be the source of an infection or was found to have an impact on public heath, then do you have plans in place for dealing with this? Have you considered that very delicate balance between not admitting legal liability but at the same time being seen to be a caring organisation and showing concern for those affected?
3. For most companies their website is the way most people will try and find out about them. Last week the North British Distillery in Edinburgh was been served with an improvement notice by the Health and Safety Executive in connection with the outbreak. I looked on their website a couple of days later to see if they had any mention of the notice. There is a balance to be had, because if they had put something on the site it draws people’s attention to the improvement notice, yet on the other hand this is an opportunity to perhaps explain why there was an improvement notice in the first place and to get across their side of the story. In life there is always a balance but I don’t know if in this case there was a conscious decision to do nothing, or they never thought of it. I saw a quote a while ago which sums this up exactly which goes; “saying as little as possible and hoping the incident goes away is not a crisis communication strategy”.