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Although legionella bacteria and its harmful effects are thankfully seldom experienced in the modern age, the threat is still very much real if building owners and organisations are not diligent in following the correct policies. While prevention is especially important in places where at-risk individuals such as the elderly and sick are housed – like hospitals – regulations must be met in all buildings to minimise legionella risk.
There are official regulations that schools and universities need to meet regarding legionella in order to prevent outbreaks as set out under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
Guidance for controlling Legionella is detailed in HSG274 and in the Approved Code of Practice L8 2013 – The Control of Legionella Bacteria in Water Systems (ACoP L8). If a building doesn’t comply, not only will people’s health be put at risk, responsible parties could be sued for negligence.
Identifying risk in educational sites
Legionnaires disease is essentially a form of pneumonia caused by breathing in contaminated water droplets. Sources of legionella include taps and showers in school changing rooms or university gyms, water fountains, and air conditioning. All of these sources, and more, would need to be risk assessed and maintained to prevent legionella.
Therefore, before any work can be conducted to reduce legionella risk, it is first necessary to conduct an inspection of a site in order to identify where legionella outbreaks may occur. Any water storage system where water is stored between 20-45C is particularly at risk, while any water distribution appliances like showers and taps will also need to be analysed.
If you are setting up a new water system or need to make changes to your existing system, you will need to ensure everything is optimised to prevent legionella outbreaks. This involves ensuring your water storage and distribution systems are not fertile breeding grounds for legionella by regulating the temperature and limiting areas where water can stagnate; dead legs in piping, for example, should be avoided.
One stipulation of legionella policy is that any management of water systems must be carried out by adequately trained and competent individuals. It is advisable to bring in professionals to take care of maintenance and checks to ensure the job is completed to a high standard. Maintenance work includes inspecting water storage systems and distributers and performing testing on water to detect any anomalies.
Why is legionella policy so important?
Legionella is a bacteria that thrives in moist areas and can eventually come into contact with human beings, leading to harmful conditions like Pontiac fever and Legionnaire’s disease. This disease is caused when bacteria is inhaled into the lungs, bringing about a wide range of symptoms such as persistent coughing, shortness of breath and muscular pain. If the condition is not treated appropriately it can cause permanent damage to the body and even lead to death.
Having a policy in your school or university means that students and staff can be protected from environmental risks and will be free to learn and teach in safety.
For more information about our Legionella control services, click here.