What Are the UK’s Legionella Regulations?
In this regulatory compliance review the water safety specialists at Legionella Control International highlight the UK’s main legionella regulations and explain what they mean for those responsible for workplace safety.
The review looks at why we need legionella regulations in the first place. It then goes on to highlight the most important safety laws that underpin an employer’s obligations to control risks at work. It considers the key legionella specific codes of practice and guidance published by the UK’s primary safety regulator, the Health and Safety Executive, and looks at the roles of the statutory duty holder and responsible person in managing water safety risks.
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Why do we need legionella regulations?
Legionella is a type of bacteria that exists in many natural water sources. However, it can also find its way into man-made water systems such as the plumbing systems found inside buildings. If it gets the chance to develop and spread within these systems, it can lead to serious illness developing in anyone who breathes in the bacteria, most significantly the potentially deadly Legionnaires’ disease. Since legionella bacteria can spread via aerosols – very fine water droplets and mist in the air – it is essential to minimise the chances of this happening.
In the UK anyone who is responsible for a building must make sure that all current regulations covering the control of legionella bacteria are followed. This includes business owners, employers, those who manage buildings, and landlords for both private and commercial properties.
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
Most people have heard of the Health and Safety at Work Act, which was brought in to make sure risks in the workplace were identified, controlled, and managed. Since 1974, workplaces have become far safer for everyone.
Legionella risks are covered under this legislation, since most workplaces have hot and cold water systems or other types of system that use water. These could be anything from a simple plumbing system found in a small office to something far more involved that covers more than one building on a complex.
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations are often referred to as COSHH for simplicity. The COSHH regulations cover all substances found in the workplace that may cause harm to health – including asbestos, lead, legionella bacteria and other bacteria that can be found in water sources.
What you need to do to comply with legionella regulations
Employers are required to identify all health hazards and conduct a risk assessment to work out how they can reduce or ideally remove those risks found in their workplace. They must make sure that they cover all potential risks to anyone in the vicinity and not just to those working there.
We can give some examples in the context of the risks posed by legionella bacteria. For instance, someone conducting a legionella risk assessment in a hospital should consider the possible risks posed to patients and not just to those working there. Additionally, those risks may differ depending on which part of the hospital is being assessed. Since legionella can cause Legionnaires’ disease and the less serious Pontiac fever, both of which are respiratory diseases, those suffering from respiratory infections are at greater risk. Similarly, those in other higher risk groups would also be at greater risk. Such elements should be recognised when conducting the legionella or water safety risk assessment.
HSE’s ACoP L8 – The Control of Legionella Bacteria in Water Systems
The Health and Safety Executives Approved Code of Practice L8 is the best guide to follow when you are the statutory duty holder or the person responsible for managing legionella risks in your workplace. It’s written as a detailed code of practice but also has a special legal status which is important to remember. The ACoP L8 also applies to anyone managing properties as a landlord, since landlords also have a responsibility to ensure each property is safe and not at risk from legionella bacteria.
The ACoP L8 document provides extensive guidance from the Health and Safety Executive, and is supported by their Health and Safety Guidance documents HSG274 Parts 1, 2 and 3 covering different types of water system.
ACoP L8 and HSG274 together provide an excellent framework that makes it much easier to make sure you are adhering to all the legal requirements laid out in the two pieces of key safety legislation mentioned above. It also ensures you are doing everything required of you in relation to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, which also form a crucial part of your responsibilities.
By following the ACoP L8 framework, you are following the approved guide direct from the Health and Safety Executive, the UK’s primary safety regulator. If you do not follow this guide, you could easily miss a crucial aspect of your legal requirements and responsibilities in this area. Be aware that some business owners have been prosecuted for failing to follow the relevant legislation and its requirements.
What’s covered in the ACoP L8 code and HSG274 guidance?
We’ve already mentioned the importance of conducting a thorough legionella risk assessment. This is your starting point and is the process which allows you to assess all potential risks associated with legionella bacteria in the water systems used in your workplace. By identifying such risks, you can take steps to reduce them or even get rid of them entirely.
The ACoP document also goes into detail about the role of the duty holder and responsible person. While the responsible person can be an outsider, someone who is qualified and experienced in taking on this role for other businesses, the responsibility for managing legionella risks remains with the statutory duty holder – the business owner or manager.
You can also find out about record keeping – what you need to keep and for how long – as part of ACoP L8. Further guidance is included on control schemes and the duties of others who are involved in the supply, maintenance, and safety of the relevant water systems.
What’s the bottom line when it comes to complying with legionella regulations?
The bottom line when it comes to compliance with the UK’s legionella regulations is that the HSE’s Approved Code of Practice L8 — The Control of Legionella Bacteria in Water Systems, supported by their HSG274 covers all the actions you need to take to be in compliance with the law and legislation mentioned above. While you could directly follow the regulations, the ACoP L8 guide is far more “water risk” specific and so easier to follow and, since it comes from the HSE, it covers everything you know you must do. Much of it is common sense, but it provides an excellent framework to help you conduct your duties in this area and so comply with the law.
World leading legionella safety specialists
Legionella Control International are experienced legionella and water safety specialist 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 Authorising Engineer solutions, 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 …