As lockdown measures and social distancing rules continue to relax, many businesses across the UK are in the process of reopening. While this is great news for these organisations, and the wider economy, it presents some worrying concerns about the spread of Legionella.
Businesses must be mindful of the health & safety risks inherent to premises that have been left unoccupied or run on a reduced-occupancy basis during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s vital that these risks are assessed before buildings are reoccupied.
One such risk is that of Legionnaires’ Disease, which is often caused by water system stagnation. Legionnaires’ Disease is a potentially fatal lung infection caused by inhaling tiny droplets of water which contain the Legionella bacteria. Symptoms include a fever or high temperature, a cough, muscle pains, headache, and sometimes pneumonia. Therein lies another problem; Legionella symptoms are strikingly similar to those of COVID-19. However, Legionnaire’s Disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics, and is rarely transferred between people.
The Legionella bacteria is often discovered in purpose-built water storage systems, condensers, spa pools and cooling towers. Many business premises have been closed since March and were shut down without time for consideration to be given to water hygiene. Whilst some have been able to regularly flush water systems during this time, many have not been able to do so and this is where the risk of Legionella increases drastically. These unused water systems are the ideal breeding ground for bacteria, and when premises are subsequently reopened the bacteria can be released through taps, toilets, and showers. It is assumed in law that named duty holders have appropriate knowledge of these risks, and therefore failing to properly assess and mitigate these risks constitutes a breach of duty.
The Legionella Control Association (LCA) gave this statement on the issue: “Simply reopening a building that has stood idle, without addressing the safety of its water system, is unacceptable and is likely to be in breach of the law. If duty holders are not able to put in place a proper recommissioning process to use the water system safely, they should not reopen the building.” Further guidance from the LCA can be accessed by clicking here.
Remember, we are also here to help! We can safely get your water systems back up and running and perform tests to ensure no harmful bacteria are present before staff re-enter the building. Simply give us a call on 0800 121 8808 today, and one of our friendly experts will guide you on what needs to be done to making your premises safe.