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We Only Have a Combi Boiler; Do We Still Need a Legionella Risk Assessment?

There are no shortcuts when employee health and safety comes into play, which as any owner of a business or premises should know, extends to the area of legionella risk assessment. However if you believe for one minute that just because you ‘only have a combi boiler’ then such measures don’t apply to you, then you best think again. Irrespective of whether you have stored water on your property or not, the same rule of thumb with regards to legionella risk assessment is a legal compliance.

If your business premises doesn’t house a water storage facility and your cold water is sourced direct from a mains supply, while your access to hot water is fed via instantaneous heaters, therefore, at a glance, your property will likely be deemed at low risk when we’re talking about legionella bacteria; and it’s propensity to infiltrate your system. You may also have informed us that in terms of employees on site, there’s none who fall into the recognised ‘at risk’ category. By which we generally mean anyone with compromised immune systems, underlying health conditions and/or the elderly.

However it’s OUR business to draw your attention to the underlying fact that despite all the above, chances are you’re overlooking a few things which need promptly addressing. Like for instance other types of every day assemblage, accessories, equipment or parts of the fixtures and fittings which are so familiar to you, you may have forgotten that the unseen threat associated with legionella could be lurking within their recesses. The type of things which blend into the background in many employment environs, yet the continued presence of which ultimately means that keeping up to date with your company’s legionella risk assessment schedule should never be a shirked duty.

<Learn more about the risks associated with legionella bacteria>

What Are These Extra-curricular Legionella Risks We’re Referring to Here?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) describe the presence of the following hit list of items which may bring with them the threat of legionella, as ‘systems’. This ‘catch all’ phrase is used by HSE to essentially highlight otherwise harmless installations found within a multitude of business properties which could be held responsible for ‘introducing complications’ according to the legislative body.

In no particular order or risk levels, this paragraph serves to flag up the more ‘usual suspects’, in order to remind both business and property owners that they are duty-bound to carry out routine legionella risk assessments irrespective of whether or not there’s a more obvious stored water facility on their site. Chief among the circled threats are (not so) clear (yet/and) present dangers discovered in washrooms. The likes of showers, wet scrubbers, eyebaths and face wash fountains. Elsewhere think of the equipment omnipresent in kitchens; such as misting devices (used to humidify vegetables, meat, etc) and spray humidifiers. Meanwhile, what about spa pools and whirlpool baths which are part of expensive health and leisure clubs and gyms?

Other areas of interest/possible issues arising include in the field of agri and horticulture. Whereby misting systems, crop irrigation systems, ultrasonic humidifiers (or foggers) and sprinkler and hose reel systems are habitually deployed. As the latter may well be in the context of vehicle washing scenarios (on the more commercial scale, notably in relation to the automated set-ups frequented with cars, buses, lorries and railway rolling stock). And maintaining an outdoors-y feel, don’t forget that ornate feature fountains and decorative water features sold at garden centres are another possible risk. The world of dentistry doesn’t get away lightly either, as powered dental lines required interaction with mist-forming water too.

<Want to learn more about the water-borne pathogens that can inhabit domestic  water systems? Check out our infographic>

Other would-be danger zones extend to any industries or work sectors which by their very definition utilise any of the following assemblages cited beneath;

  • Water softeners
  • Air washers, wet scrubbers, particle and trivial gas scrubbers
  • Non-disposable nebulisers (commonly used in respiratory therapy)
  • Industrial effluent treatments
  • Fire, dust and odour suppression systems
  • Paint spray preparation techniques
  • Tunnel pasteurisers (and similar equipment)

So, Why Are The Aforementioned Seen as a Legionella Threat?

Temperatures are key to the abovementioned posing legionella risks, or to be more factually accurate; the changing temperatures in water found on site. Many of the above installations can and regularly do operate at (or simply register) at certain temperatures which foster bacterial growth. When this liquid is then dispersed in aerosol form (courtesy of sprays and mists), any droplets containing legionella bacterium can subsequently be inhaled by individual employees exposed; therein transmitting dangerous airborne particles unseen by the human eye.

Picking Up On Sprays, Is This Why Showers Are Perceived to be Possible Legionella Flashpoints?

Pretty much, yes. Although toilets and washbasins fall beneath the legionella radar to a large extent, showers in contrast increase concerns from a bacterial viewpoint. More so, if there’s evidence pertaining to inadequate maintenance of said showering facilities; which must always be cleaned and disinfected religiously. Or rather, weekly, as suggested by the HSE, in terms of flushing out, with the rigours of disinfection a quarterly procedure. With direct reference to the latter, a robust shower disinfection should always cover removal of the showerhead and hose (which should then both be immersed in descaler and then rinsed off with fresh water), before being soaked in the actual disinfectant. And once again thoroughly rinsed with fresh water.

All This Makes Perfect Sense, Of Course; But Where Does the Current Law Stand on The Issue of Legionella Risk Assessments?

There’s no escaping the fact that a legionella risk assessment is mandatory; and therefore unavoidable in a workplace. Be whatever and wherever that workplace is. And regardless of if water is stored and/or showers are in situ or not, due to it being a legally-compliant requirement. An assessment is considered all-consuming and ultimately effective, in the event that all risks have been identified and managed thereafter. That being said, it remains within the remit of the dutyholder’s accountability to ensure that periodical reviews of the assessment are undertaken, especially if there are revisions to the water system or the property’s fundamental business use.

legionella risk assessment free guide download


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