What are Legionella bacteria?
Legionella are the bacteria that cause infections in humans such as Legionnaire’s disease, Pontiac fever and Lochgoilhead fever.
Does your workplace have legionella risks?
Almost certainly yes. Legionella bacteria grow best at temperatures between 20c and 45c. Any water system is potentially at risk of exposure, and you should be particularly careful if your workplace has one or more of the following:
- A cooling tower or evaporative condenser
- Dry/wet cooling systems
- Hot and cold water systems
- Other water systems such as spa pools, emergency showers, indoor fountains or humidifiers,
How often do I need to carry out a risk assessment?
The HSE’s Approved Code of Practice requires that legionella risk assessments are updated regularly (every two years at least), or when significant changes occur that may render the current risk assessment invalid.
If the assessment shows a low risk, then you may not need to do anything else apart from update your assessment every two years. However, if risks are identified then you will need to work with your expert advisors to implement a control scheme.
What are the consequences for non-compliance?
Penalties for non – compliance vary depending on a number of factors, but fines typically start at around £20,000 (plus a criminal record for those found guilty), as well as the threat of a custodial sentence. If significant ill health or loss of life occurs, then the Police or Crown Prosecution Service could bring a prosecution under the Corporate Manslaughter Act which can result in even severe custodial sentences and fines.
Where are Legionella bacteria found?
Legionella bacteria live naturally in a wide range of fresh and artificial water systems. Since they are present (albeit in low numbers) in mains water, they are very likely to get into a building’s water systems. There is very little you can do to prevent this, but what you can do is manage your water systems effectively to minimise the risks and prevent the bacteria from growing to levels which can be fatal to humans.
What are the legal requirements?
Health and Safety legislation places the responsibility clearly on an employer, or the person in control of the premises, to minimise the risk from legionella bacteria in the workplace.
Quite simply, if you have water systems on your site, you need to carry out a Legionella risk assessment.
You can find out more about your legal requirements here
To help you fully understand and meet your legal obligations, the Health and Safety Executive has developed an approved code of practice for all duty holders.
Who can carry out an assessment?
The HSE clearly states that the people involved in assessing the risks and applying precautions must have sufficient authority, competence and knowledge to ensure all operational procedures are carried out in a timely and effective manner.
The best way to be sure that you are in full compliance with the law, and are effectively protecting the health of your employees and colleagues, is to talk to water treatment specialists with long experience of performing legionella risk assessment programmes.