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Legionella and waterborne pathogen regulations: Everything you need to know

On average, there are around 200-250 cases of Legionnaire’s Disease in the UK each year.

Although this number might seem small, certain types of Legionella bacteria can be fatal. Without checking the quality of your water systems, you could put people at severe risk.As recently as June 2015, a man died from an infected water system in a British care home run by a well-known and reputable company. The organisation in question was fined £3 million by the HSE for their inability to detect, prevent or monitor the risk of Legionella, failing to implement the control and monitoring measures required to safely manage the care home’s hot and cold water systems.

While there are no specific Legionella regulations, there is clear legislation on the way waterborne diseases are handled. To keep your water systems safe and on the right side of Health and Safety law, it is essential that you follow the requirements of the COSHH Regulations 2002 and keep in line with the HSE ACOP L8.

To help you do this, the HSE has also issued a set of guidelines called HSG 274 parts 1, 2 and 3, which provide “best practice” methods for businesses to follow. All these regulations apply to bacteria as well as hazardous chemicals and require you to take the following steps.

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1. Conduct risk assessments

You’ll find legionella bacteria in any natural source of water, but man-made hot and cold water systems (along with industrial cooling systems) often help the bacteria grow and proliferate without the right control systems in place.

As a result, it’s vital your organisation conducts Legionella risk assessments on a regular basis and that these assessments are kept up to date at all times. If you’re unable carry out the assessment yourself, it’s your responsibility to find a professional who can.

This risk assessment must include:

  • Management responsibilities, including the name of the competent person and a description of your system
  • Competence and training of key personnel
  • Any identified potential risk sources
  • Any means of preventing the risk or controls in place to control risks
  • Monitoring, inspection and maintenance procedures
  • Records of the monitoring results and inspection and checks carried out
  • Arrangements to review the risk assessment regularly, particularly when there is reason to suspect it is no longer valid

2. Control the risks

You must actively prevent the growth of Legionella and other water-borne pathogens from the get-go. This means investing in, designing and maintaining your water systems under the right conditions to help prevent the growth of bacteria.

However, if you find an unpreventable issue when assessing your water systems, it’s your responsibility to appoint someone to help you meet health and safety expectations and minimise the risk. This person must put together a written control scheme that’ll help your organisation manage risks and implement effective measures to control Legionella.

Once a written control scheme is in place and all risks have been addressed, it’s your duty to implement and monitor the scheme by keeping well-maintained records of your activity.

A full, detailed list of expectations and management advice can be found on the HSE website

3. Record your Legionella regulations and results reliably

According to HSE guidelines, if you have five or more employees it’s a legal requirement to record your Legionella findings.

The HSE ACOP L8 states that records must contain:

  • Details of the person or persons conducting the risk assessment and implementing the written policies
  • The written policies and how they were implemented
  • The findings of the risk assessment
  • A detailed account of the state of your water services and systems
  • The date and results of any inspections or tests

Traditionally, these recordings were written down as paper documents. However, the bureaucracy that comes with paper logbooks can lead to unreliable results, lost reports and lengthy processing times. Businesses that are unable to provide both legionella risk assessments and associated policy documentation are at risk of either HSE or EHO intervention. The penalties for putting employees or members of the public at risk include prosecution, fines and loss of reputation.

As a result, it’s important your organisation invests in a reliable water hygiene and water treatment management system. With the right digital tools, you can streamline your Legionella testing and monitoring processes and provide a better service to your clients.

Keep it clean

With hundreds of people still contracting Legionnaires Disease in the UK on an annual basis, it’s clear that more can be done to prevent the bacteria from infecting water systems

Fortunately, with the right approach and strict monitoring processes, conditions such as Legionnaire’s disease are easily preventable.

However, it’s up to your organisation to invest in the right people, methodology and management systems to help keep the disease at bay.

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