Managing Legionnaires Disease in Schools, Colleges & University Buildings

Managing Legionnaires Disease in Schools

Some businesses and buildings are considered to be at greater risk from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease than others. As far as risk levels are concerned, schools, universities, and colleges tend to be lower on that scale than sites with cooling towers, or those with ill, elderly and vulnerable people present. However, managing legionella risks in schools and other educational buildings is still very important if you are to ensure staff, students and others are safe from the effects of Legionnaires’ disease.

Even if schools and colleges are seen as lower risk, this does not absolve those in charge from assessing the risk from legionella bacteria in the water systems under their control. Basic risk management and inspection of the water systems, usually in the form of a legionella risk assessment provide an essential starting point in helping to understand the potential problems present to those working in and using an education venue.

Conducting a legionella risk assessment at your school or college

A legionella risk assessment is your starting point as it is essential that you know where the sources of risk lie. Are some areas more prone than others to allowing legionella and other bacteria to grow? Anywhere that generates a water spray that could be inhaled would be a risk. Similarly, taps, shower heads, and other outlets that are infrequently used would be at greater risk of a higher level of legionella bacteria.

Checking hot and cold water temperatures

Legionella bacteria grow most readily at temperatures of between 20-45 degrees Celsius. The Health & Safety Executives ACOP L8 document which deals with the control of legionella will tell you that water stored in and sourced from your hot and cold water systems should either be above 50oC within one minute at the hot tap, or below 20oC after two minutes for the cold water, according to its use and requirements.

The Health & Safety Executives ACOP L8 tells us that the hot water temperature at outlets should be above 50oC within one minute, and the cold below 20oC after two minutes.

Create a list of tasks to be undertaken at intervals to maintain the system

Someone at the school or college should also be appointed as the responsible person to ensure these tasks are carried out as and when required, and that the risks are managed correctly. For instance, if any rarely-used outlets are identified during the legionella risk assessment, they should either be removed which is the recommended solution, or if this is not practical they should be flushed through weekly to ensure bacteria does not get the chance to build-up. Water temperatures at various points should also be taken monthly, ensuring that all taps and other areas are covered over the course of a year.

Consider whether different steps need to be taken at different times of the year

The summer holidays see many schools, colleges and universities closed, with very few staff and students around. This means taps and other water outlets that are used regularly at other times of the year can be left unused for weeks and this can lead to stagnation of the water, which can in turn encourage the growth of unwanted bacteria, including legionella.

As such, the legionella risk assessment should identify this and recommend control measures that will ensure the system remains safe throughout the year – not just during term times. Additional flushing and cleaning measures may be required during holiday periods.

Whether you are operating a school, college, university, each individual educational property will need to conduct its own risk assessment for Legionnaires’ disease to identify the specific risks present there. This provides a starting point from which to progress, ensuring the risk of legionella is always kept as low as possible.

Legionella and water safety specialists for the education sector

Our teams of water safety specialists support those responsible for the control of waterborne pathogens including Legionella bacteria in schools, colleges and universities. We deliver professional water safety 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.