Care Homes, Legionnaires Disease & UK Law - What You Need To Do
Some industries are more vulnerable to the potentially devastating effects caused by Legionnaires’ disease and legionella contaminated water than many others. Care homes, and in fact the wider healthcare industry is one of these, and yet there have been recent cases whereby care homes have been identified as failing to meet their duties and requirements in this important area of health and safety compliance.
The importance of competency in the risk assessment process
For any UK business, including care homes, controlling legionella in the workplace is a legal requirement. The starting point for any control scheme is a legionella risk assessment and this should be performed by a competent and knowledgeable person, to ensure it is undertaken in the proper manner. It should also be reviewed regularly, at least every two years or sooner if things change.
Simply having a risk assessment done every now and again is not enough; it must be shown to have enough detail to ensure every risk from legionella and Legionnaires’ disease has been carefully considered and suitably managed to protect people. These assessments must be available for inspectors to view whenever an inspection is conducted by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), Local Authority or Health and Safety Executive.
The scheme of control and management procedures for care homes
There should also be proper scheme of control in place to manage the risks identified. This will follow on from the risk assessment and should include a range of measures that may include temperature control, cleaning and disinfection routines, temperature monitoring, taking water samples and checking them for legionella bacteria etc. Proper management of the water systems, the levels of bacteria, and any water treatments given, should be evident and appropriate for the care home and its water systems. No two care homes will be identical, so an appropriate system must be developed and maintained to manage the legionella risk within each individual home.
Following the HSE’s ACOP L8 to control legionella risks
The HSE’s ACOP L8 is the main health and safety document every care home should follow to ensure they are compliant with the law and the legionella guidance provided by the CQC. The ACOP L8 covers several important areas:
- Legionella risk assessments should be done to consider the risk of legionella contamination and Legionnaires’ disease
- A competent person, referred to as the responsible person should be made responsible for handling legionella compliance and processes
- Records must be made and kept for a minimum of five years, and should cover every aspect of the Code of Practice and recommendations
- Regular monitoring and water testing should be undertaken
- A proper water treatment system should be adopted if necessary, to keep bacteria at safe levels
- If legionella is found, it should immediately be reported
UK law and how to achieve legionella compliance
An independent expert on legionella compliance such as Legionella Control International may prove to be the best way to ensure legionella compliance is achieved within a care home. An alternative would be to send one or more members of staff for legionella training, so they are qualified to be competent persons to undertake the required processes.
Compliance is not an option, but a legal and socially responsible necessity, particularly as elderly people within care homes (and those with poor health) are among the highest risk categories for contracting Legionnaires’ disease.
Expert legionella & Legionnaires' disease risk management support
To find out more about our specialist legionella risk management services for care homes and healthcare operators please call us on 0161 877 0586 (Manchester) or 0203 637 47 48 (London) or contact us here >>
For additional information about the Health & Safety Executives ACOP L8 dealing with Legionnaires’ disease and the control of legionella bacteria in water systems … here