Legionella Risk Assessments...Landlords of residential property and commercial business owners have legal responsibilities for combating Legionnaires' Disease.
The Acop L8 'The Control of Legionella Bacteria in Water Systems" and The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 place strict obligations on ALL employers, building owners and landlords to undertake a Water and Legionella Risk Assessment on all workplace buildings where there is a foreseeable risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria. The HSE Approved Code of Practice L8 applies to any business where water is used or stored (for example sinks, taps, showers, toilets, hot and cold water supply) and where there is a means of creating and transmitting water droplets which may be inhaled, thereby causing reasonably foreseeable risk of exposure to legionella bacteria.
Premises include care homes, hotels, guest houses, spa's and leisure centres, dental and GP surgeries, health care premises, NHS, schools, universities, colleges and all commercial offices, manufacturing and distribution sites.
Revised legislation sipulates that residential property landlords carry out risk assessments of hot and cold water systems for the Legionella bacteria which cause Legionnaires' Disease and thereafter maintain control measures to minimise the risk. Most rented accommodation premises will be low risk but it is important that risk assessments are carried out and appropriate control measures introduced. Commercial accomodation such and a hotel or guest house are also required to carry out a similar risk assessment.
Legionella bacteria are found in the natural environment and may contaminate and grow in water systems, including domestic hot and cold water systems. They survive low temperatures and thrive at temperatures between 20 - 45°C if the conditions are right. Legionella baceria are killed by high temperatures at 60°C or above.
Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia which can prove to be fatal and everyone is open to infection. The older you get the higher risk you are of contracting the disease. The risk increases with age, but some people are at higher risk, for example people over 45, smokers and heavy drinkers, people who are suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease, diabetes, lung and heart disease or anyone with an impaired immune system. The disease cannot be passed from one person to another.
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.
How Legionnaires Disease is contracted
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.
A legionella risk assessment is an essential risk management process and comprises a detailed examination of the risks presented by hot and cold water systems, and seeks to identify and assess the risks associated with Legionnaires' disease through exposure to legionella bacteria.
Provided the risk assessment shows that the risks are insignificant and the control measures are being properly managed no further action would be necessary. It is important, however, to keep the assessment under review periodically in case anything changes to the system. Legionella water sampling is generally not required in domestic type water systems and then only in exceptional circunstances.
The UK's Health & Safety Executive (HSE) in their Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) L8, "Legionnaires' disease. The control of legionella bacteria in water systems" state that:
"A suitable and sufficient [risk] assessment must be carried out to identify and assess the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria from work activities and water systems on the premises and any precautionary measures needed ..." Additionally " the person who carries out the risk assessment and provides advice on the prevention and control of legionella exposure must be competent to do so."
Comply with the law
Legionella bacteria can multiply in hot or cold water systems and storage tanks and then be spread in spray from showers and taps. Although the generally high throughput and relatively low volume of water held in smaller water systems reduces the likelihood of the bacteria reaching dangerous concentrations, you must still carry out a risk assessment to identify and assess potential sources of exposure.
This will apply to houses or flats with small domestic type water systems where the water turnover is high. You must then introduce a course of action to prevent or control any risk you have identified. For most residential situations the risk assessment may well show the risks are low so long as simple control measures are followed.
Business and workplace owners and operators, private or social landlords or their appoited agent who provide rented residential accommodation, as the person or organisation in control of the premises or responsible for the water systems in their premises, have a legal duty to ensure that the risk of exposure of to legionella is properly assessed and controlled. This duty extends to empolyees, residents, guests, tenants and other visitors.
Heavy fines or even imprisonment can be imposed especially if someone were to unfortunately die. Parties can be prosecuted even if there is an exposure to risk without anyone actually becoming ill.
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