Taking responsibility for legionella control

26th October 2015

It’s no good passing the buck when it comes to water hygiene; everyone involved in a building must take responsibility. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), ‘duty holders’ includes landlords, employers and letting agents. Before their responsibilities kick in, however, building designers and heating and plumbing installers, must create water systems that meet legionella control guidelines.

Risk assessments

For ‘responsible’ parties, Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) L8, Legionnaires’ disease: The control of bacteria in water systems, provides guidance focusing on the specific health and safety laws that apply. As part of this, the duty holder must understand how to assess and identify legionella risk themselves, or appoint somebody competent to do this. The risk assessment should cover:

  • Is water stored or re-circulated in the system?
  • Is water temperature (in all or some parts of the system) between 20-45 °C?
  • Are there any deposits, such as rust, sludge or scale, which could support bacterial growth?
  • Is it possible for water droplets be produced and, if so, can they be dispersed?
  • Is it likely that end users (residents, visitors, employees etc.) could be exposed to contaminated water droplets?

Part of the risk assessment includes making it clear who’s in charge, with a defined allocation of management responsibilities and key personnel trained and competent; regular refresher training is also advised. Inadequate management, lack of training and poor communication can be contributory factors in outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease.

There is no specific timeframe for when legionella risk should be assessed, but an indication to review could include:

  • When there is a change to the water system or its use
  • A change of use of the building
  • New information available about risks or control measures
  • The results of checks indicating that control measures are no longer effective
  • Staff changes
  • A case of Legionnaires’ disease

Landlords and legionella

Landlords in particular have a legal responsibility to their tenants, often owning ‘high-risk’ properties that can lie dormant for long periods of time. Apart from advising their tenants on the dangers of Legionnaires’ disease and how this can be avoided in the way they use the water systems, landlords and letting agents should do the following:

  • Flush out the system before letting a property
  • Avoid debris getting into the system (i.e. ensuring cold water tanks have a tight fitting lid)
  • Set control parameters to ensure water is stored at 60C
  • Make sure any redundant pipework is removed

Are you responsible? We can help assess legionella risk and assist in the construction and ongoing maintenance of water systems. Visit our water treatment section for more information, or contact us.