An Employer’s Guide To Legionella

Understanding Your Legionella Health and Safety Duties

Do you keep evidence of your legionella risk assessments? Stay compliant with strict health and safety guidelines by getting your records and controls in place.  

The Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 includes assessing for the risk of legionella bacteria, which may pose a threat to any occupants of the building that your workplace is located in. All employers are required to conduct regular risk assessments to identify the presence of legionella within their internal water systems. Commercial landlords and employers must all step up and ensure compliance in this health and safety matter to safeguard the wellbeing of their employees.

The Threat Of Legionella

Water sources can harbour legionella bacteria which can pose a significant threat to a person’s health. This type of bacteria thrives in substandard water conditions, such as where the supply is stagnant. Legionella may be discovered in natural sources such as rivers, but in terms of the working environment, manmade water systems including towers and heating systems are the main hazards. In the leisure industry, legionella may also be found in spa pools or similar aqua facilities.

If the volume of legionella present is known to be high, then people in the vicinity of the water may inhale the bacteria through droplets of water in the air around them. This can lead to a serious respiratory condition which is known as Legionnaire’s Disease, a type of pneumonia. Whilst many people will make a full recovery from the illness, unfortunately others will die if the lungs become abnormally inflamed.

Legionnaire’s disease is not a condition that can be spread via person to person contact, so there is no need to distance yourself from someone who has contracted the illness. All measures should be focused on the employer assessing whether legionella is likely to be present and then mitigating the risk of this dangerous bacteria to all occupants of the building.

Legionella As A Business Risk

COSHH, or the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations require landlords, as well as owners and operators of commercial environments to regularly assess for the presence of legionella. This would usually involve booking legionella assessment engineers to come and carry out a detailed evaluation of your water systems. They will typically create a diagram of your water supplies and test samples to determine if the bacteria is present. They should then put stringent legionella control procedures in place to decide if any remedial work needs to be carried out, perhaps to clean your water tanks or replace the fittings entirely. Employers should also put best practice assessment and monitoring strategies in place to ensure that they meet strict compliance standards.

Record-keeping is an essential part of these standards, and you should keep all certification of your legionella checks, along with copies of any microbiological reports you have, in order to prove the condition of your water systems. Seek advice on the frequency of legionella assessments you should undertake. Usually every two years should be sufficient, but if legionella has been found, then you’ll likely need to carry out checks more frequently particularly if any vulnerable people with low immune systems are present in the building.

Managing the risk of legionella bacteria should be one of the top priorities of an employer, so if you’re aware that your risk assessment strategies are lacking then now is the time to take them seriously!

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