Creating a Water Management Program to Reduce Legionella in Buildings

Water Management Program to Control LegionellaUS regulators are increasingly spotlighting the risks posed by legionella bacteria and Legionnaires’ disease following several high profile outbreaks there. As a result, many US based businesses and healthcare organizations will need to create a dedicated water management program to control the risks from legionella within their buildings in order to protect their workers and others from harm. This water safety program will help ensure legionella and other waterborne bacteria that can contaminate building water systems do not become a serious safety issue. Knowing how to create such a management program, however, can be difficult if you’ve never been involved in developing one before.

What does ASHRAE 188 suggest?

The US water management standard published by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, ASHRAE 188 is a voluntary, but well recognised standard designed to help those responsible for managing and maintaining safe water systems. The 188 standard identifies those steps that should be taken to help manage the risks from legionella and Legionnaires’ disease.

So what steps do ASHRAE suggest?

Putting a team in place

Build a team who have the skills and experience to manage your water safety issues. In many cases, the team should consist of several people rather than just one. This will ensure every aspect of monitoring and managing the water system is covered.

Creating a diagram of the water system

Create an accurate diagram of the water systems at your facility. You can only work out where the legionella risks lie if you know how the water system is designed. This diagram should be up to date and include all active and inactive parts of the water system, since the inactive and “dead” parts run the greatest risk of causing issues.

Finding legionella risks and taking steps to reduce those risks

It is important that you identify the risks from legionella and other waterborne pathogens and then take steps to reduce them. In some cases, the risks posed by the water systems may be minimal, and no additional steps need to be taken. However, in other cases, assorted risk areas may be identified. If this should occur, the water safety team can decide which steps to take to ensure the risks are appropriately handled and reduced.

Regular monitoring and reviewing of processes undertaken

You should implement a water monitoring program and regularly review what you do. By monitoring the water systems regularly, the water safety team can discern whether all necessary steps are being taken to cope with the risks inherent in that system. Typical questions to ask include:

  • Are all processes and risk management steps working as they should?
  • Are further steps required to ensure the legionella risks are kept as low as possible?
  • Is regular treatment of the water working adequately?

Reviewing the existing risk management processes also ensures that whenever something goes wrong, it can be handled as quickly as possible, while posing the minimum of risk to all those concerned.

Record all details of everything that is done to maintain and monitor the water system

It is essential that you keep detailed records of the steps you take to control the risks from legionella. By keeping accurate records, there will be proof of everything that has been done. This will also indicate who did what and when. As more information is gleaned, it will also become easier to detect any changes in the system to show trends that could potentially lead to future problems coming to light.

In following these steps, it becomes easier to develop an effective water management program you can rely on, no matter what building you are managing.

More about ASHRAE 188

The ASHRAE Standard 188 titled “Legionellosis: Risk Management for Building Water Systems” sets out the minimum legionella risk management requirements for building water systems.

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