HSE Urges More Action on Preventing Legionella
Businesses are being told to do more to protect workers and members of the public from exposure to legionella.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued a safety notice after identifying common failings in legionella control from a review of outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease in GB over the past ten years.
HSE’s findings confirmed that cooling towers and evaporative condensers are the most common source of significant outbreaks. Ninety per cent of outbreaks stem from failure to recognise potential legionella problems or to adopt effective control measures.
The notice also stresses the need for effective and consistent monitoring of water quality and the importance of responsibilities being assigned to named individuals with proper management oversight.
Legionella bacteria can cause pneumonia-like illness; the most serious being:
Legionnaires ’ disease, as well as the similar but less serious conditions of Pontiac fever and Lochgoilhead fever. Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and everyone is susceptible to infection.
Any water system that has the right environmental conditions could potentially be a source for legionella bacteria growth.
There is a reasonably foreseeable legionella risk in your water system if:
- Water is stored or re-circulated as part of the water system
- The water temperature in all or some part of the system is between 20–45°C.
- There are sources of nutrients such as rust, sludge, scale and organic matters.
- The conditions are likely to encourage bacteria to multiply.
- It is possible for water droplets to be produced and, if so, if they can be dispersed over a wide area.
Under general health and safety law employers must consider the risks from legionella that may affect employees or members of the public and take suitable precautions. The following must be carried out: –
- Identify and assess sources of risk.
- Prepare a plan for preventing or controlling the risk.
- Implement and manage the plan; appoint a person to be managerially responsible (Responsible Person).
- Keep records and check what has been done is effective.
- If appropriate, notify the local authority of the presence of a cooling tower or evaporative condenser.