As an employer, landlord or someone in charge of premises – it is down to you to ensure that you fully understand the dangers of Legionella, the health risks involved and how this is relevant to you.
By law every business in the UK that operates a water system must be assessed for the potential risk of Legionella. Steps must then be taken and safety measures put into place to safeguard against the potential dangers and protect staff, customers and those within the building from possible harm.
What is Legionella?
Legionella Bacteria (Legionellosis) is a generally found in natural environments such as rivers, ponds, lakes and other bodies of water and despite the bacteria being around us in these places it rarely poses a risk.
However when Legionella is present in man-made water systems certain conditions can cause the bacteria to multiply – putting those who use it at risk from Legionnaires disease. Some common areas that can provide the environment needed for Legionella to grow and multiply include air conditioning systems, hot and cold taps (water systems), cooling towers, fountains, hot tubs and Jacuzzis.
The bacteria can be breathed in via small droplets of water by those within close proximity who are then at risk of health problems and illnesses such as Legionnaires disease.
Legionnaires’ disease is a possible consequence for those who have inhaled the droplets and is a form of pneumonia (lung infection) which can be very serious and even fatal if not treated quickly.
Legionnaires cannot be spread by person to person or contact with an infected person – only by direct inhalation of the contaminated water drops.
Who is most at risk?
Legionnaires can be contracted by anyone; however there are people who are more likely to get it and whose symptoms can be much more serious:
- Those over 50 years of age
- Heavy drinkers
- The immunocompromised (on immune system supressing medication or undergoing chemotherapy etc.)
- Those with long conditions such as asthma, COPD, diabetes, emphysema, cancer etc.
How could it affect my business?
For landlords, employers and those in charge of premises – the health and safety of the people within the building falls to you to ensure that all necessary measures are taken to prevent and control the potential risk of exposure to Legionella.
An outbreak of Legionella can be extremely disruptive to a business if a number of staff members become unwell which results in sick days and potential financial loss. This is also very upsetting for those who are affected not to mention the fact that it can be fatal in severe cases in which you and your company could be liable if proper measures were not taken to prevent it from happening.
What is a Legionella risk assessment?
A Legionella risk assessment can help owners and operators to identify potential risks within their facility and put in place the necessary effective systems needed to control the levels of Legionella bacteria in the water.
A Legionella risk assessment will include:
- An initial assessment to identify and assess potential risks
- Inspections of potential water systems
- Testing for Legionella
- Schematics of water systems
- Recommendations for any work or changes that need to be made
- Advice for best practices going forward to minimise risk of Legionella
- Guidance on future monitoring for compliance with L8 (Legionnaires’ disease Approved Code of Practice)
- A detailed log book for keeping comprehensive and up to date records
- Microbiological reports with water test results
- An official record of treatment and certification
A Legionella risk assessment can be carried out internally. However there is a legal obligation to ensure that the individual responsible for carrying out and enforcing the assessment is sufficiently competent in this area. The risk of an incompetent Legionella assessment could not only be detrimental to the business but to people’s health.
A professional company can ensure all assessments and work is carried out quickly with minimal disruption and provides peace of mind knowing that your facilities are safe and fully compliant.