Legionella risk assessment – what businesses need to know
Legionella is a type of bacteria that can cause a serious and frequently fatal type of atypical pneumonia, called Legionnaires’ disease. It’s often found in water systems, such as cooling towers, hot tubs, and general plumbing systems. Businesses that operate buildings with any of these types of systems have a legal responsibility to assess and manage the risk of Legionella growth and spread – an essential part of that process lies in carrying out Legionella risk assessments.
What is a Legionella risk assessment?
A Legionella risk assessment is a process that involves identifying potential sources of Legionella, assessing the likelihood and potential consequences of exposure, and implementing controls to prevent or mitigate the risk. The assessment should be conducted by a qualified professional, with knowledge of Legionella and the specific water systems in the building.
Identifying at-risk water sources
The first step in a Legionella risk assessment is to identify potential sources where the bacteria might grow. This includes any water systems that are likely to provide the appropriate condition, such as warm temperatures and stagnant water. Common sources include cooling towers, hot water tanks, showers, and pipes.
Once potential sources have been identified, the next step is to assess the likelihood and potential consequences of exposure. This includes evaluating factors such as the number of people who could be exposed, the susceptibility of the population, and the potential for the bacteria to spread into the air.
Based on the results of the risk assessment, controls can then be implemented to prevent or mitigate the risk of Legionella growth and spread. These can include measures such as maintaining warm water at above 60°C, regular cleaning and disinfection of water systems, and implementing a monitoring program to detect and respond to any potential outbreaks.
An ongoing process
It is important to note that a Legionella risk assessment is not a one-time event, but rather an ongoing process. The assessment should be reviewed and updated regularly to account for changes in the building or water systems and to ensure that controls are effective in preventing or mitigating the risk.
In addition, businesses should also keep records of their risk assessments, including the date of assessment, the name of the assessor, and a summary of the findings and controls implemented. This will help to demonstrate compliance with legal requirements and can be useful in the event of an outbreak or legal action.
It’s also important to have a plan of action to be taken in case of an outbreak, with clear procedures for notifying the authorities, and taking appropriate actions to minimise the risk of exposure and contain the outbreak.
In conclusion, businesses that operate buildings with water systems that could potentially harbour Legionella have a legal responsibility to assess and manage the risk posed by Legionella. Legionella risk assessments form part of a crucial ongoing process that involves identifying potential sources, assessing the likelihood and potential consequences of exposure, and implementing controls to prevent or mitigate the risk. It’s important to review and update the assessment on a regular basis, keep records of the assessment, and have a plan of action in case of an outbreak.