Can You Insure Against Legionnaires’ Disease?
In this article we consider whether businesses and other organisations can insure themselves against the commercial consequences resulting from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. If you’ve never considered it then perhaps you should think again – especially when you look at the potential for loss of business, loss of reputation and personal injury compensation claims that could be levelled against you.
Controlling legionella in the workplace
In the UK and lots of other places around the world business have a legal duty to ensure they manage the presence of legionella and other bacteria in their water systems to keep their workers and others safe from harm.
Many of us associate outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease (and its less-serious cousin, Pontiac fever) with hotels, spas, hospitals, and businesses with cooling towers. However, legionella bacteria can multiply within any water system if that system is not properly managed.
If an outbreak of this potentially deadly disease does occur, the first task is to minimise any further danger or risk to those who could be affected in the immediate vicinity. If the building or business needs to be closed to deal with cleaning and disinfecting processes, this will be next on the list. Oftentimes, the affected business will not reopen until the situation is adequately dealt with and the premises are confirmed to be safe once more.
Insurance against Legionnaires’ disease – important yet rarely mentioned
While we occasionally read about outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease in the news, we never hear about the potential consequences of such an outbreak for the business concerned and what effect it has on them.
Businesses must have various forms of insurance in place to cover them for all eventualities. Yet it is suspected that few businesses would have adequate insurance cover to protect them from the fallout caused by cases of Legionnaires’ disease being traced back to that business.
Insurance cover for loss of business and reputational damage
There are two areas to think about here. Firstly, when a business needs to close so an outbreak can be dealt with, it loses custom and revenue. This may include casual custom as well as cancelling bookings or orders that have already been made. There is also the question of losing future trade because of damage to the reputation of that business, where people have less confidence in using or staying at the premises following an outbreak of Legionnaires’. Both elements can seriously affect a business’s bottom line and should be carefully considered when assessing insurance cover against such an event.
Insurance against personal injury compensation claims
Legionnaires’ disease has a mortality rate of between 10% and 12% in general. However, those who are more susceptible to contracting it present a higher mortality rate, possibly around 40% or higher in that group alone.
The families of those who die from the condition as well as those who recover may seek compensation for their experience. Any insurance policy taken out to cover a business against an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease should consider the potential for personal injury compensation claims as well.
As a prudent business owner if you have existing insurance policies, you should certainly check to see whether they cover your business for these eventualities. If they do not, it would be sensible to look for additional coverage so it is in place just in case you need it.
World-leading water safety specialists
Our teams of water safety specialists support those responsible for the control of legionella and other water safety issues across all regions of the UK and internationally, delivering professional water safety and Legionnaires' risk assessment solutions, water testing, independent compliance auditing, City & Guilds training and other environmental risk management services.
If you have questions about any of the issues raised above or you would like to speak with one of our specialists please call us today on 0161 877 0586 or contact us here.