Legionella Duty Holder Responsibilities & Training Needs
This is part one of a two-part article written to guide legionella duty holders (usually employers or people in control of premises) of their responsibilities in assessing and managing the risks connected with the presence of Legionella bacteria in man-made water systems. The bacteria can cause several illnesses in humans, and these are all referred to collectively as legionellosis. Legionnaires’ disease is probably the most familiar (and most serious) of these to people, but other examples such as Pontiac fever also exist.
Helping duty holders understand the risks
Some people are more prone to developing Legionnaires’ disease than others. Men and those over 45 years of age are at greater risk, for example, as are those who smoke, since this can affect the health of the respiratory system. This in turn means they are more susceptible to falling ill if they inhale the bacteria through contaminated water droplets in the air. Anyone with poor health or a compromised immune system would also likely be at greater risk.
Managing legionella in water systems
This bacterium is present naturally around us, yet it rarely poses a risk in such situations. However, it can also be present in man-made water systems such as cooling towers, hot and cold water systems, decorative fountains and anywhere else where water is used, such as in hot tubs. Some of these situations allow the bacteria to multiply more easily, so a proper plan, a legionella risk assessment and a well-developed scheme of control should always be in place to protect people.
The duty holder and the appointment of a competent person
No two workplaces or locations will be identical. Therefore, as the duty holder you, or a competent person that you’ve engaged to help you, must assess the risk present in your business, or the business that has appointed you as the duty holder. This is a requirement of the Health & Safety Executive in their Approved Code of Practice called ACOP L8. A competent person could be you or someone else with the skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety at your premises. You could appoint:
- a colleague or colleagues
- an external consultant or contractor
Identifying the risks in a specific location
Identifying the water temperature within each part of the water system(s) is vital, as Legionella bacteria will more readily multiply where the temperature is between 20 and 45 degrees Celsius.
Water emitted from a system as mist is also a big risk, since people can inhale any bacteria that might be present in those droplets. Showers, decorative fountains and cooling towers are good examples of this, and appropriate steps must be taken to ensure the risks from legionella are well-managed.
Who is at risk?
You should also consider who is present in the environment. For example, an old people’s home would naturally include people who are at greater risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease, whereas a workplace with young healthy people present may not present the same risk. However, the presence of legionella should always be monitored, managed, and checked regularly to ensure it does not present a health hazard and that you comply with the law.
In part two, we will consider how the legionella duty holder can identify the main sources of risk, and how to combat them.
Further information, advice and support
If you require further information or support regarding the control of legionella in building water systems or you would like to speak with one of our specialists call us today on 0330 223 36 86 or get in touch here … contact us