Legionella risk during summer

20th June 2016

After a long, wet winter, today (20th June) is officially the first day of summer with the heat and humidity increasing Legionella risk.

According to Public Health England, cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the UK usually increase during the summer months, peaking between July and September.  In 2013, more than a fifth of all cases (21.8%) reported onset of symptoms during August.

Public health risk

Outbreaks can spread quickly if the source is not immediately identified, and cause widespread devastation.

In 2012, an outbreak occurred in the Stoke-on-Trent area.  The relevant bacteria was eventually found in an unclean display hot tub at a bargain warehouse, but by this time 21 people had been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, resulting in the deaths of 3 men.  Nearly four years later, legal proceedings relating to the case are still ongoing.

Identifying the symptoms

The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are similar to the symptoms of the flu:

  • high temperature, feverishness and chills;
  • cough;
  • muscle pains;
  • headache;
  • occasionally leading on to severe pneumonia;
  • diarrhoea and signs of mental confusion.

What to do next

If any symptoms are present, NHS Choices advises seeking GP advice.  Many cases can be treated with antibiotics.  Severe forms of Legionnaires disease usually only develop in older people, smokers or those with underlying medical conditions.

Early identification of the bacteria is key to controlling an outbreak.

Potential Legionella risk in the workplace should be reported to manager, health and safety executives, or any other relevant person as soon as possible.

Landlord and business responsibility

The bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, Legionella, grows and survives in stagnant water systems where impurities are present.  Buildings such as hotels, hospitals, museums and office blocks, are vulnerable to Legionella contamination due to their large and complex water systems, but any system where water is stored and used is at risk.

All businesses and landlords have a duty to ensure that they have taken steps to identify and manage legionella risk.  Failure to comply with the Approved Code of Practice L8 2013 – The Control of Legionella Bacteria in Water Systems (ACoP L8) not only puts public health at risk, but could be used in criminal proceedings as evidence of a company’s negligence.

Employers are under a legal requirement to report cases of Legionnaires disease that may have been acquired on their premises to the Health and Safety Executive.

Download the Health and Safety Executive’s guidance for free, here.

Does your business control its potential Legionella risk?

We can provide you with a professional Legionella Risk Assessment.

Our competent City & Guilds qualified engineers will provide evaluation and analysis of your water system, helping you to understand your company’s duties and responsibility and providing information about compliance with health and safety law.