Legionella Control for Facilities Management Companies
In this article our water safety specialists consider some of the key factors facilities management companies need to consider when taking on responsibilities for the control of legionella in buildings.
Legionella control – defining roles and responsibilities
When it comes to managing the risk from Legionella bacteria in hot or cold water systems, the most important thing to remember is this… it should always be abundantly clear who is responsible for which tasks. Keep this in mind and remember that you can and should ask to clarify anything that doesn’t make sense or isn’t crystal clear. Confusion, misunderstandings and omissions can easily lead to problems whereby legionella and other potentially dangerous waterborne bacteria can get quickly out of control.
The role of facilities management in controlling legionella
With that out of the way, we can move on to the role of facilities management in controlling the risks from Legionella bacteria in any buildings being managed. Since facilities management companies are typically hired by those who own or occupy these buildings, there is a greater risk of misunderstandings between the two. If no management systems or maintenance contracts are in place, the building owner would be responsible for this role. However, if the owner brings in a specialist facilities management company to maintain the building and its services, it’s easy for one, other, or both parties to assume certain roles are being done by the other.
There lies the path to potential problems – especially where the build-up of legionella in the water systems is concerned. While each party assumes a task is being done by someone else, legionella quietly goes about its own business, gradually threatening to colonise the water system in question to create increased risk to occupiers and users of the building.
So, how can you avoid this type of confusion if you’re about to take on a facilities contract for managing one or more buildings for a property owner or business?
Simple – make sure everything is crystal clear at the outset of any contract. Clarify who does what, when, where and why, and then get formal agreement to this.
Managing (and making clear) responsibilities for the control of legionella
That is a simple way of covering the topic, of course, so let’s dig a little deeper. It is vital that you know who is responsible for risk assessing, managing, and maintaining the water systems throughout each building. It is always best to have all this confirmed in writing, so you can demonstrate everything is covered and each party agrees on their responsibilities.
The topic of competency is vital here as well. Let’s assume the building owner wants your facilities management company to handle all legionella risk assessments, water treatment, testing and maintenance tasks throughout the building. In this case, you must be sure your staff are competent to perform these tasks.
Some facilities management companies hire legionella control professionals, such as Legionella Control International to take on this role. However, you should again have evidence that you are contracting the role out to a qualified and experienced company. It is not enough to ‘pass the buck’ to someone else without checking they are qualified to do the job. In the event of an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, those investigating the outbreak will want to know who was responsible for doing what, and that they were competent to do it.
Many recognised training schemes conduct an assessment at the end, requiring a pass to confirm each individual understands the training and is competent to perform the tasks covered in it.
Carrying out a water safety or legionella risk assessment
Experienced and qualified staff capable of carrying out a water safety or legionella risk assessment should survey the building to be managed, considering all areas of the water system, identifying where any risks lie and how they must be safely managed.
A new build should pose far less risk than an older building, purely because the construction processes should consider the safety of the water systems and make sure they are as safe as possible at that point.
The client (building owner or occupier) should then be made aware of the potential risks within the water system, along with ways to minimise or ideally remove those risks.
The legionella risk assessment should also highlight regular testing, maintenance and dosing measures required to keep the system as safe as possible. Of course, all risk assessments should be reviewed regularly, especially if there’s reason to suspect it is no longer valid.
The UK’s Health and Safety Executive, in their ACOP L8 state that a legionella risk assessment should be seen as a living document and must be reviewed regularly to make sure it remains up to date.
A sensible approach when dealing with simple buildings where the risks are low would be to recommend you review your risk assessment every two years, or sooner if there is a significant change. With higher risk or more complex buildings the risk reviews may be more frequent depending on the circumstances.
Maintaining clear records of testing and actions to control legionella
Record keeping is always important where safety management is concerned, but where you have regular meetings with building owners, you should keep records of the meetings as well. Make sure all parties are clear on their responsibilities and agreements over timings and measures to be taken at various times
For example, if a regular water system risk assessment has identified the need for work to be done on an element of the system, agreement should be sought and confirmed from the building owner to make sure the work can be carried out, and when.
The goal is always to have a paper trail of evidence that can be produced if the building is inspected by the safety regulator (Health and Safety Executive, Care Quality Commission, Ofsted) for any reason. They will want to know each stage of the water safety process – when legionella risk assessments were conducted and by whom, and what measures were then taken. Supplying evidence of all stages of this process will help make everything clearer for all parties.
If we were to choose one word to describe this process, it would be clarity. Always make sure the facilities management company is clear about its responsibilities with the building owner. Keep records at every stage and the whole process should become much easier to manage.
Independent legionella and water safety specialists
Our teams of experienced water safety specialists support facilities management companies and those responsible for the control of waterborne pathogens including legionella and pseudomonas in the workplace, helping them to protect people and so meet their health and safety obligations in this specialist area.
We are experienced in the role of the Authorising Engineer (Water) and deliver professional water safety risk assessments for legionella, pseudomonas and other waterborne pathogens. We also offer water quality testing, independent compliance auditing, City & Guilds training and other risk management services that help keep staff and others safe.
To speak with one of our independent water safety specialists about managing your water risks call us today on 0330 223 36 86 or contact us here …