Is Legionella a Legal Requirement? 5 Essential Steps to Compliance
In this regulatory compliance review the water safety specialists at Legionella Control International answer one of the most frequently asked questions posed by our new clients … is the control of legionella a legal requirement in the UK?
The review looks at what your legal responsibilities are to protect people from exposure to legionella bacteria, and what the UK’s safety regulators, the Health and Safety Executive have to say about it. The review then goes on to summarise five essential steps you should take to ensure you stay the right side of the law when managing the risks from legionella in your workplace.
A version of this story dealing with the legal responsibilities for the control of legionella in the workplace appeared in Legionella Control International’s newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
What are your legal responsibilities when it comes to legionella?
Legionella bacteria can find its way into manmade water systems of all shapes and sizes. Once it’s there it can cause significant health hazards unless steps are taken to mitigate the risks. Legionnaires’ disease is the most serious disease caused by the bacteria, although there are several other less serious infections that may also develop if someone inhales the bacteria from water droplets or mist in the air.
In the UK if you own a business, or you have control of a building, it is your responsibility to understand and manage any risks connected with legionella, it is a legal requirement. This applies to landlords of residential properties along with anyone managing larger premises such as hotels, offices and blocks of flats. The law also applies to factories, hospitals, care homes, and all other business premises.
Guidance from the Health & Safety Executives Approved Code of Practice ACOP L8
The Health and Safety Executives ACOP: Legionnaires’ Disease: The control of Legionella bacteria in water systems (L8) should be your first port of call when considering the legal requirements that you must meet surrounding the control of legionella bacteria in your workplace. This ACOP provides sensible guidance to managing the risks from hot and cold water and other risk systems that use water in the buildings you are responsible for. It also gives good advice on controlling those risks.
Five key steps to ensure compliance with legionella law
Here we’ve summarised five practical, but essential steps that you should follow when managing the risks from legionella in your workplace.
1. Begin with a legionella risk assessment
A legionella risk assessment identifies the sources of risk present in the water systems in your buildings. You should consider whether you are competent to undertake this risk assessment on your own, but you can always bring in an expert to do it for you. In either case, though, the responsibility for ensuring the risk assessment is carried out properly remains with you.
A residential landlord managing a property for rent may only have a simple household water system to focus on. Conversely, the water systems present in large and complex buildings may present significant challenges, in which case involving an expert would be a far better option.
2. Legionella risk prevention or control?
Whenever a risk is identified within a building, the ideal approach is to completely remove that risk. However, in some cases, this may not be possible. The alternative would be to manage that risk to acceptable levels.
For example, redundant pipework can be removed to eliminate the risk. However, an occasionally used shower or sink may still be required, just not that often. In this case, regular flushing through of the water system could be an ideal solution – the water asset creating the risk remains, but is managed in such a way that the risk is reduced to acceptable levels.
In some areas, minimising the risk can mean adjusting the way water is used or stored. Some areas pose a bigger legionella risk than others, especially where that risk cannot be removed altogether. Typical examples include cooling towers, decorative water features, hot tubs and other instances where water creates a spray or mist. This spray can be transferred over a wider area, thereby potentially raising the risk for anyone in its path.
Control of water spray, making sure the water stored and used in your buildings is either hot enough or cold enough to limit the risk of legionella growth, and treating it appropriately are all elements that must be carefully considered.
3. Legionella risk management: Who is responsible?
A duty holder and a responsible person must be appointed to take responsibility for the management and control of legionella risks at your workplace. In some cases, it would be impossible for one person to be the competent or responsible person who is always in charge of managing the risks associated with legionella bacteria. If this is the case for you, it is best to bring in other responsible people to help. For example, in a business where several workers are present, perhaps working around the clock, there should be a responsible person present for each shift. Proper legionella training is highly recommended for each person involved, so everyone is aware of their responsibilities and competent to carry-out the role.
Alternatively, you could employ an outside contractor such as Legionella Control International, with experience in managing the risks associated with legionella to come in and take on this aspect for you.
4. Make sure you keep records
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), safety management records are only required to be kept if you employ five or more people. However, it is best to keep records anyway, as they provide you with a clear picture of who is doing what, when, and the results gleaned. It’s always better to have more records than to neglect to keep any, and be unsure of what was done, when and by whom, especially when things go wrong!
5. Notify your local authority if your business operates a cooling tower
If you use a cooling tower as part of your business you must tell your local authority. This is because cooling towers are considered to be a higher legionella risk.
This notification is required by law and must be done in writing. Full details of the requirements are included in the Notification of Cooling Towers and Evaporative Condensers Regulations 1992.
So what’s the bottom line?
You really do need to understand and manage the risks associated with legionella in your workplace… it’s your legal responsibility
If legionella bacteria are allowed to spread through a water system, the consequences can be devastating for those affected. Those responsible for managing the risks, the duty holder and responsible person, have a legal duty to make sure everything that can and should be done to mitigate the risks from Legionnaires’ disease is carried out.
If you manage premises of any size, whether you are an employer, a landlord, or a manager, you must make sure you follow current legislation to ensure your premises are always safe to use.
Leading legionella and water safety specialists
Legionella Control International are experienced legionella and water safety specialists supporting those responsible for the control of waterborne pathogens including legionella in the workplace. We help businesses protect their workers, customers and others from the dangers caused by water systems, helping them to meet their health and safety compliance obligations in this specialist area.
We are experienced water safety specialists and deliver full range of services including risk assessments for legionella, pseudomonas and other waterborne pathogens. We also offer compliance auditing, water quality testing, City & Guilds training and other health and safety risk management services that help keep staff and others safe.
If you would like to speak with one of our legionella specialists about improving your risk management processes call us today on 0330 223 36 86 or contact us here …