Any type of building, property or premises with a water system has the potential to be at risk for Legionella bacteria. This can pose a threat to the health of those who live, work and visit there which is the reason why legionella risk assessments are so crucial.
What Is Legionella?
Legionella bacteria live in natural water sources such as lakes, rivers, ponds and streams but they can also be found in artificial hot and cold-water systems like hot tubs, spas, cooling towers, air conditioning and pools.
Within the right environmental conditions, Legionella can quickly breed and multiply to dangerous levels where it becomes a hazard to human health. Even when the numbers of Legionella are high, it can remain dormant in a water system without causing any harm. However, the danger of Legionella comes when the conditions allow for the contaminated water to aerosolise, and the droplets are inhaled by those nearby which can lead to Legionnaires disease.
What Is Legionnaires Disease?
It is a severe form of Pneumonia that infects the lungs and is often misdiagnosed at first as a cold. Early diagnosis is important in order to start the necessary treatment straight away because it can make people extremely unwell, cause long term health problems and is fatal in around 12% of cases.
Those who are over 45 years of age, heavy smokers or drinkers, have diabetes, lung, kidney or heart disease and compromised immune systems tend to be more susceptible to the disease and therefore are more vulnerable.
Legionella Risk Assessments
What Is A Legionella Risk Assessment?
All landlords, employers, business owners and managers of commercial or residential properties have a legal responsibility to ensure they carry out regular Legionella risk assessments on their buildings.
A Legionella risk assessment is used to highlight any potential Legionella risks and help control the levels of the bacteria in the water system by;
- Identifying any hazards in relation to Legionella
- Reducing the risk of identified hazards to levels that are as low as reasonably possible
- Determine any physical precautions and management policies which need to be implemented in order to ensure the safety of those within the premises
What Does A Legionella Risk Assessment Entail?
The process of a Legionella risk assessment can vary slightly depending on the type, size and complexity of the water system. A professional Legionella Risk Assessment might include:
- A review of the current records and any previous assessments
- A tour of the site including all water sources
- Assessing the risk levels of people within the property
- Temperature profiling
- Testing of and analysis of water systems
- Taking pictures for photographic evidence
- Assessing hot and cold-water systems
- Legionella and water potability sampling
- Identifying potential areas of risk
A detailed report is then prepared which will include any suggestions for remedial actions that need to be taken.
Are Legionella Risk Assessments A Legal Requirement?
Employers, business owners, landlords and property managers must be aware of the dangers of Legionella and the potential risk that it poses. They have a duty of care to those within their properties to ensure that regular Legionella risk assessments are carried out in order to identify any shortfalls in management control and carry out the necessary remedial action to rectify them.
Under UK health and safety law, they are legally required to;
- Take into account, assess and mitigate any risks of Legionella within their properties
- Be able to provide evidence of the risk assessments that have been carried out
- Prove that they are taking every reasonable measure to control the risks of Legionella to help keep those within the building safe
Frequency that risk assessments for Legionella are required can vary depending on the type of property and system but as standard need to be carried out every 2 years, or sooner if any changes are made to the water system.
Although it isn’t legally required that the Legionella risk assessment be carried out by a licensed professional, it can be extremely beneficial to entrust the task to an experienced, qualified expert. This is because in the event that there is an outbreak at a property you are responsible for, it can be in your best interest to have comprehensive, verified documentation of your risk assessment which can prove that you took every reasonable step to ensure the safety of the water system.