While no business will rejoice at learning that their recent Legionella risk assessment has returned high risk values, that shouldn’t necessarily mean that alarm bells need to ring out. Admittedly steps need to be taken and quickly to nullify the extent of the perceived threat posed to employees and, possibly a wider demographic who might become exposed in the event that a threat is actually, physically realised at some juncture in the foreseeable future; but that’s not to say it’s suddenly a red alert situation unfolding. A calm, collected response will ultimately ensure that pre-determined procedures are subsequently put into place to avert any further risk, or indeed, proliferate the extent and potential spread of the dormant issue now flagged up.
First and foremost a company needs to ascertain the remedial plans which are to be actioned, once initial identification of the threat has been established. And none of these are particularly difficult to put inti effect, if they aren’t already being practised within a business. For example we’re referring to completing the all-important (and rudimentary) L8 training, purchasing and frequenting a water temperature-monitoring thermometer and appointing a responsible individual within the company to undertake the essential and on-going vigilance of the internal water storage systems and its infrastructure.
Anything thereafter of course means you’ll need to recruit the more exacting and specialist services offered by a water treatment firm who are better equipped and experienced to oversee the bigger picture and undertake the more far-reaching testing and analysis of internal systems to determine health and safety procedures are being carried and industry standards met. It’s these companies who are well versed in performing the extra-curricular tasks which will bring future legionella risk assessments back out of the danger zone associated with the ‘high risk’ categorization, and within the boundaries of more manageable scenarios.
Such outsourced water treatment service providers are historically adept at addressing the more complex matters surrounding the aspects of ongoing – and more deep-seating – legionella monitoring, including the critical likes of fitting TMVs, acknowledging and removing dead legs and chlorinating pipework and tanks. Once a better standard of governance is adopted, then the chances of revising existing risk assessment scores upwards are improved significantly going forward; therein extending due dates in terms of following assessments, providing the scores come down accordingly in the meantime.
Remind me, what constitutes a potential high risk legionella scenario?
A number of key factors need to be considered when familiarising yourself with situations which might be more susceptible to the onset of legionella bacteria making its presence felt. We’re talking anywhere within a business (or domestic) set-up where and when water is stored – or re-circulated – within the framework of an existing system lay-out. We’re also referring to anywhere where the water temperatures in some – or all –parts of the system fluctuated between the 20 – 45 °C range and/or where sources/traces of nutrients cohabit with the water. Think along the lines of rust, sludge, scale and any other organic matter or debris, as all can impact the formulation of legionella given opportunity. Meanwhile any systems within a company’s property where contaminated water droplets are allowed to be produced have the wherewithal to perpetuate the unseen distribution of legionella bacteria; courtesy in the main of showers and cooling towers.
So, on finding out that a business’ recent legionella risk assessment has come back denoting a high risk possibility, what do I do next?
You have two ways in which to move forward once your legionella risk assessment confirms that the threat is high, pursuing both of which will afford a business peace of mind in the short and medium term. As we mentioned above in summary, among the very first reactions is to ensure that you intend being more proactive henceforth. Which entails elevating an employee within your company who is either qualified, experienced or conscientious enough to be trusted to carry out routine testing within buildings (running sentinel taps and showering facilities on regular basis so as not allowing time for bacteria to take hold on surface areas of water storage systems which don’t have liquid systematically passing through their primary channels of human interaction). Not only will their remit be one of testing, but also documenting their findings and report any discrepancies which might manifest.
Elsewhere the correct response to a high risk legionella risk assessment being presented would be to re-familiarise those parties accountable within a business with L8 training methodology and implantation. Training is paramount when it comes to legionella risk management programmes, and therefore there’s a requirement for those tasked with upholding a company’s approach to this legislation to have successfully completed a suitable ACoP L8 course so as to equip them with the skills to undertake their duties safely and effectively.
And naturally it’s no good simply arming an individual with the knowledge and qualifications to perform the fundamental tests which centre on legionella risk assessment without providing them with the correct tools for the job from the outset. Chief amongst which is an approved temperature monitoring thermometer. This device – in its various shapes and forms – is an imperative part of the arsenal required in the fight against legionella bacteria given the freedom to make inroads into a company’s internal water storage assemblage.
Thereafter, it’s very much a case of outsourcing your water testing needs, via a reputable company which specialises in such services and can complement the plans – outlined above – which you now have in place. As part and parcel of their professional scope, they’ll instigate a litany of physical measures to determine that your water system is in rude health and operating as it should. As touched on earlier, these may well cover such areas as aby or all of the following;
- Replacement of thermostatic mixing valves
- Insulation fitments on storage vessels and pipework
- Chlorination and disinfection of storage vessels and/or existing water systems per se
- Re-configuration of cold water storage tanks
- Proposed installation of cold water storage WRAS-approved lids, rodent screens and lid vents
- Provision of legionella awareness and/or in-house task training
Timescales for acting on legionella risk assessment findings
Timing is vital should your legionella risk assessment score result in cause for concern, and understandably the faster you react to the findings the better chance of nipping the problem in the bud. And when bearing in mind, worst case scenario an underlying bacterial issue could, potentially pose a threat to public health, businesses are legally bound to provide solutions and resolve the problem before it become as even greater one. So the sooner you make contact with a water treatment specialist to discuss your needs and begin to roll out plans of alternative action, the better all round.