Legionellosis is a collective term for diseases caused by Legionella bacteria including the most serious Legionnaires’ disease, as well as the similar but less serious conditions of Pontiac fever and Lochgoilhead fever. Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and everyone is susceptible to infection. The risk increases with age, but some people are at higher risk, eg people over 45, smokers and heavy drinkers, people suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease, diabetes, lung and heart disease or anyone with an impaired immune system. The bacterium Legionella pneumonia and related bacteria are common in natural water sources such as rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. They may also be found in purpose-built water systems, such as hot and cold water systems and spa pools. If conditions are favourable, the bacteria may multiply, increasing the risks of Legionnaires’ disease, and it is, therefore, important to control the risks by introducing appropriate measures. Legionnaires’ disease is normally contracted by inhaling small droplets of water (aerosols), suspended in the air, containing the bacteria which is why showers and spa baths are higher risk. There is no risk from drinking contaminated water.
The Law around Legionella
Various laws govern the requirement necessary to complete a Legionella Risk Assessment namely:
- Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH regulations)
- Approved Code of Practice L8 (Fourth Edition) – Legionnaires’ disease. The control of legionella bacteria in water systems (ACOP)
- Technical Guidance HSG274 – Part 2: The control of legionella bacteria in hot and cold water systems
Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
Section 2(1) would normally cover agents as it requires all employers to ensure so far is reasonably practicable the health and safety of all employees. Section 3(1) continues to require that employers or self-employed persons (which will include landlords) must ensure all persons not in their employment are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH)
Regulation 6 of the COSHH provides both employers and self-employed persons (agents and landlords in this context) shall not carry out work which is liable to expose any person to any substance hazardous to health unless a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk has been made.
Approved Code of Practice and Technical Guidance – L8
The ACOP and accompanying technical guidance makes it clear that Legionella is a hazardous substance for the purpose of the COSHH regulations and provides the guidance which will assist with the making of a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk (risk assessment for short).
Legionella Risk Assessment (LRA)
The first step in assessing the risk from Legionella bacteria within any water systems is to carry out a Legionella Risk Assessment (LRA). The LRA should be carried out by a competent person who has training in Legionella awareness as well as someone who fully understands the water systems(s) being evaluated.
Where systems have a high risk of Legionella contamination particularly where water droplets are produced by the process then the LRA must be thoroughly worked through and completed by someone with a high level of Legionella awareness and most likely by a trained Legionella Risk Assessor. Examples of these high-risk types of systems are showers, cooling towers, wet humidifiers, Jacuzzis, and vehicle wash systems and others where water droplets are produced.
All systems require an LRA, however not all systems will require elaborate control measures. A simple risk assessment may show that the risks are low and being properly managed to comply with the law. In such cases, you may not need to take further action, but it is important to review your assessment regularly in case of any changes in your system, and specifically if there is a reason to suspect it is no longer valid.
GES Water Risk Assessment Service.
GES Water has UKAS 17020 Accreditation for Legionella Risk Assessment. We have a trained team of professional Legionella Risk Assessors who are able to provide a full risk assessment for our clients.
Our LRA will consist of a full onsite survey to inspect and evaluate all water systems present. We will identify the level of risk, evaluate every type of risk ad prioritise the actions required and control measures need to control the risks. We will normally produce a schematic for all water systems. Our engineering team can also carry out remedial work such as dead leg removal, tank cleaning and disinfection, thermostatic mixing valve service and testing as well as regular temperature monitoring if required.