Certain things in life aren't as straight forward or as obvious as they might otherwise - and at first glance - be perceived. Indeed, so-called 'grey' areas are lying in wat around many corners. One such example of this 'is it/isn't it?' scenario is the law regarding when and where the size of a workforce dictates whether or not a legionella risk assessment is legally necessitated. There’s historically been a degree of confusion over the question of the acknowledge employee numbers which stipulate if and when it's mandatory for an employer to carry out an all-important risk assessment. So with this is mind we're giving you the official - if not definitive - low-down on the subject, to at the very least lend some much-needed clarification to the subject.
As it currently stands - and according to HSE legislation and governance - much of the 'thinking' hinges on keeping records. In as much as, should a company employ less than 5 people, there's no legal obligation to write down any findings relating to legionella risk assessments which the company itself has instigated/performed; or rather instructed third parties to carry out. Unlike the rules and regs which stringently apply for those companies and organisations who have 5 or more employees on their books. Although even with regards to this, it always makes sense to monitor, log and regularly revise any findings or key information pertaining to legionella risk assessment, management or control, irrespective of numbers involved, as we've long championed.
The pivotal line in all of this is the one where the HSE draws people's attentions to; 'if you have less than 5 employees, you do not need to write anything down.' Slightly ambiguous as it doesn't categorically say one way or another about if its compulsory to undertake a risk assessment, instead focusing on the observations and nothing down of changes pre or post-assessment. Which, potentially, leads some businesses to arrive at the conclusion they down' need to go down the legionella risk route per se, when in actual fact that isn't the point being made hereabouts. To put it another way, it's our firm belief and understanding - not to mention general consensus of opinion - that despite not being obliged to further scrutinise water systems within their business domain, the fundamental threat posted by the onset of legionella should always be addressed, and subsequently assessed, irrespective of employee volume. This includes the examination of the type of water system the premises supports, to ascertain the actual risk and rule out the possible presence of any of the bacterium responsible for the spread of legionella. Essentially, it's what's commonly referred to as a 'no-brainer'.
In summary, we'd always stress that regardless of the size of your business - in terms of both the physical and structural footprint and more specifically in this instance, the manpower - you carry out fundamental legionella risk assessments to be safe rather than sorry. Although compliance isn't necessarily dictated when it comes to companies whose workforce numbers less than 5, we fervently believe that going to relatively unobtrusive lengths to determine employee's health and wellbeing won't be compromised is priceless and should never be underestimated. And of course, if, but more importantly, when, legionella risk assessments are performed it's essential that all findings are reported and logged, while existing records are regularly received and maintained accordingly, so that instant access is granted to those who many need to observe documents of this nature in the future.
Want to find out more about what is involved in carrying out a risk assessment? Download our free guide.