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As the temperature rises so does the risk of Legionnaire’s disease. Employers, or those in charge of managing a building, or with health and safety responsibility, must know whether their water systems are safe.
It’s a known fact that bacteria in water systems can be lethal. Perhaps the best-known hazard is Legionnaires’ Disease, caused by the bacteria Legionella. This is so dangerous that the government publishes a surveillance report every month on cases that have been reported, and it is a good idea to keep tabs on this to ensure that you are prepared if the disease begins increasing in your area. You can find those reports here.
Last year, there were 345 cases. About half of these were from travel abroad – the rest were contracted in the UK.
It’s essential to carry out a full assessment of any hygiene risks that are likely to occur from your water installation. For example, if water is recirculated around the system or stored in it and has a temperature range of 20 to 45 C, you have a situation which may result in contamination and bacteria growth.
Stagnant water at any point in the system is dangerous, so keep pipe runs short wherever possible and remove any pipework that is not needed, or any dead ends where stagnant water could collect. Deposits of sludge, scale or rust within the system can encourage the growth of bacteria, including Legionella.
Some materials provide ideal breeding grounds for bacteria if they are used in water systems. Professional water hygiene companies like us will advise on any new installations or on replacing high-risk parts of an existing system.
If the water system produces droplets, and even more so if these can be spread over a wide area as is the case with cooling towers, it needs to be treated as a high-risk installation. A testing and maintenance schedule must be put in place.
If water droplets containing Legionella are dispersed, then a whole community may be affected. Those who are infirm, elderly or have compromised immune systems may die from the resulting disease.
If you have responsibility for maintenance staff, building managers and others, you must ensure that they are fully trained in the reasons for water hygiene and the protocols necessary to maintain healthy water systems. The best providers of this training are water hygiene companies, which can document that your staff have had appropriate training. We provide Legionella Awareness Training, click here for more information.
If you have responsibility for a water system, you need to be able to prove that you regularly clean the system by having written operating procedures and a log of cleaning activities.
You can find out more about the control of Legionella here.
This is a complex area with a lot of legislation, so if you need any advice then please do get in touch with us.