Who is the Statutory Duty Holder for Legionella at Your Business?
No doubt you have heard the term duty holder before. But what does it mean when it’s associated with the control of legionella at your business? Not knowing the answer could leave you exposed to health and safety issues, potential prosecution… it could even jeopardise lives.
In the UK all employers must be aware of the risks from legionella in their workplace and take appropriate action to manage them. However, the duty holder for legionella control issues may not always be the employer. It can be a person, i.e. the business owner, but it could also be the company. This is known as a virtual person, i.e. a corporate body.
Is a duty holder for legionella the same as a responsible person?
The duty holder is not typically the same as the responsible person, but some people do get the two roles confused. Let’s say you own a sports centre that includes a swimming pool. You would be recognised by the regulator for health and safety issues, in this case the Health & Safety Executive, as the duty holder as you own and have a responsibility to manage the water systems within that building. As the duty holder it is your responsibility to make sure an accurate legionella risk assessment is carried out to determine whether legionella is a risk to your employees, visitors and others, and if so, what steps should be taken to manage that risk.
Appointing a responsible person
As the duty holder, part of your duties would be to choose a suitably competent responsible person to make sure the water management programme is successfully carried out and the risks from legionella and Legionnaires’ disease are identified and controlled properly. That person will be responsible for making sure specific tasks are done on time and in the right manner.
It is possible that a duty holder might also have all the required knowledge and experience to be the responsible person as well and fulfil a dual-role. However, this is not necessary. Many people hire outside companies, such as Legionella Control International, specialising in the development and implementation of water management programmes to handle this aspect for them.
Does the duty holder need to be experienced in managing legionella risks?
The duty holder doesn’t usually need to be experienced in managing legionella risks but should have a good knowledge and understanding of the issues so they can perform their role effectively. It is however their duty to make sure that whoever is selected for the role of the responsible person is experienced, suitably qualified and competent to do their job. If you did not do this, and an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease occurred, you could be prosecuted – in fact, an outbreak does not need to occur for you to face prosecution. In the event of an investigation you would need to be able to prove you did everything you were required to, which would include following all the requirements laid out in the Health & Safety Executives Approved Code of Practice ACOP L8 for this scenario.
The role of the duty holder goes beyond legionella
As such, the HSE’s ACOP L8 and their HSG274 documents which deal with the control of Legionella bacteria and Legionnaires’ disease in the workplace should be your guidelines to help in ensuring you cover all your duties as the duty holder in this situation.
It should be noted however that the role of the duty holder does not merely apply to the control of legionella and water management programmes. It applies in relation to other health and safety matters in businesses and places of work that are covered by the HSE as the safety regulator.
Legionella and water safety specialists
Our teams of water safety specialists support those responsible for the control of waterborne pathogens including Legionella bacteria in the workplace, helping them to protect their people and meet their health and safety obligations in this specialist area. We deliver professional water safety legionella risk assessments, water testing, independent compliance auditing, City & Guilds training and other environmental risk management services that help keep staff, students and others safe.
If you have questions about any of the issues raised above or you would like to speak with one of our legionella specialists please call us today on 0330 223 36 87 or contact us here.