Water Safety and Legionella
The requirements of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 extend to risks from legionella bacteria, and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 provide a broad framework for controlling health and safety at work. More specifically, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 provide a framework of actions designed to assess, prevent or control the risk from bacteria such as Legionella and to take suitable precautions.
To be able to manage the risk of Legionella it is important to understand the following:
- What water system the building has;
- The equipment associated with it such as pumps, heat exchangers, showers etc;
- Its constituent parts.
- Whether water is stored or re-circulated as part of the system.
Whilst the legionella bacteria is found in most water systems, according to the Health and Safety Executive, Legionella’s ideal conditions for breeding and multiplying are:
- Temperature range (i.e. cold water above 20 degrees, hot water below 50 degrees);
- Water droplets produced and dispersed such as showers and aerosol from cooling towers;
- “Food” available for the bacteria to feed on such as stagnant water within redundant (unused) pipework or rarely used outlets leading to rust, sludge, organic matter etc.
Legionnaires’ Disease is caused by the inhalation of droplets of water contaminated by the Legionella bacteria and people most at risk are individuals with weaker immune systems. it can be identified by its pneumonia-type symptoms, including nausea, headaches, coughing, fever and shortness of breath.
Risk assessments must be regularly reviewed by a competent person defined by the HSE as ‘someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience’. An agent can fall into this category if they have an understanding of how to inspect the premises for any risks. The legal duties for landlords who provide residential properties can be read here
Note: New assessments need to be carried out should vulnerable tenants move in or a system is updated/altered. The assessment will cover:
- The name of the competent person carrying out the assessments, along with their competence and training;
- A description of the system;
- Any identified potential risk sources;
- Any means of preventing the risk or controls in place to control risks;
- Monitoring, inspection and maintenance procedures.
If the conclusion is that there is no reasonably foreseeable risk or the risks are low and are being properly managed to comply with the law, the assessment is complete and no further action need be taken at this stage.
A written record must be kept that needs to include:
- Records of the monitoring results and inspection and checks carried out;
- The maintenance of any existing controls;
- The assessment review date(s).