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Can I carry out a legionella risk assessment myself?


If you are responsible for water systems that workers, residents or tenants are exposed to, then you have a legal duty to manage the risk of legionella and protect against outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease, this will require you to carry out a legionella risk assessment

You might be responsible for a care home, a dental surgery, a spa or swimming pool, be a landlord or have a cooling tower on your premises. There are many situations in which you will be expected to control legionella, but in every case a mainstay of prevention is a thorough risk assessment.

(Want to find out more? Download The facilities manager's guide to legionella  risk assessments.)

But can you do a legionella risk assessment yourself?

The best practical guide to your responsibilities is the HSE’s Approved Code of Practice, L8. These regulations explain that:

The dutyholder must ensure that the person who carries out the risk assessment and provides advice on control of exposure must be competent to do so.

Whether, in the eyes of the law, you are considered competent to undertake a risk assessment depends on your experience and understanding of the water systems under your control.

For example, if you’re a landlord to private tenants, you will probably only be responsible for a simple, domestic water system. In these cases, the HSE advises that you can ensure risk is kept low by keeping hot water hot and cold water cold – and keep it moving. In these cases, you could almost certainly do the risk assessment yourself by following sensible advice and guidance, such as the ideas in this HSE document.

However, if you are responsible for more complex systems, such as cooling towers, spas or commercial water supplies, then you will almost certainly need to be an expert with a background in these systems if you want to conduct your own risk assessment.

It is crucial, according to the HSE, that anyone carrying out the legionella risk assessment has:

…Such ability, experience, instruction, information, training and resources to enable them to carry out their tasks competently and safely. In particular, they should know:

(a) potential sources of legionella bacteria and the risks they present;

(b) measures to adopt, including the precautions to take to protect the people concerned, and their significance;

(c) measures to take to ensure that the control measures remain effective, and their significance.

In other words, a competent person must be appointed to not only undertake a risk assessment, but to implement ongoing measures to manage the risk of legionella.

The consequences of not doing so can be severe. Earlier this year, a hospice was prosecuted for failing to appoint a competent person to manage risk in its hot and cold water system.

So, if you are absolutely certain you have the skills and knowledge to make a competent risk assessment, then by all means do so. But if you want peace of mind knowing the work has been done by a recognised industry professional, get in touch today to organise your legionella risk assessment.

Free download: the facilities manager's guide to legionella risk assessments >

Download the facilities manager's guide to legionella risk assessments


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