Any organisation with premises in the UK should know that it needs to maintain legionella compliance. This means taking steps to identify and mitigate the risks of the bacteria in the premises’ water system –helping to prevent outbreaks of the flu-like Pontiac fever, as well as the potentially fatal Legionnaires’ disease. A key part of this work is the legionella risk assessment.
What is a legionella risk assessment and why is it important?
There are a lot of myths around legionella, but it should be noted that the bacteria is actually widespread in most natural water sources such as rivers and lakes. However, there are certain circumstances in which man-made water systems can provide the ideal breeding ground for the bacteria. A risk assessment is simply the process of ascertaining if these circumstances are present, resulting in health and safety risks for staff, residents and site visitors.
There are many legal requirements to adhere to when considering legionella control, most of which are outlined in the HSE’s L8 Code of Practice document. There are plenty of documented examples of organisations failing to comply with the relevant laws and industry regulations, which have resulted in tragic incidents that had serious financial and legal consequences.
What the risk assessment involves
In order to minimise disruption on your business, it’s helpful to do a little work ahead of time to prepare for the legionella risk assessment. This will make sure you have all the necessary information for the assessment itself to go as smoothly as possible.
We believe a thorough legionella risk assessment should include the following:
- A documented system overview, including pipework schematics and photographic evidence
- Testing of hot and cold water throughout the building at key points
- Water tank surveys
- Flow and stagnation tests
- Inspection for aerosol formation hazards
- Supply of digital thermometers, records and basic training to your staff
In terms of the water sampling and testing, this simply involves an engineer coming to collect samples from key points around your site which are then securely delivered to a UKAS-accredited lab for analysis. However, it should be noted that the person carrying out the work needs to ensure it is compliant with both British Standards and Guidance and UK and European legislation.
Who should undertake the assessment?
The risk assessment can be undertaken internally, as stated in the HSE guidelines. This includes any remedial actions and ongoing monitoring and servicing.
However, the organisation has a legal obligation to ensure the person conducting the work is sufficiently experienced, skilled, and competent in this area of specialisation. It is of paramount importance to the future of the organisation that the work is carried out as needed. Because, as we’ve seen, the penalties for failing to be compliant – not to mention, putting people’s health and safety at risk – can be huge.
Of course, organisations often face a lack of time, resources, and appropriate experience to carry out the work internally, which is why most feel safer bringing in a professional water treatment company to tackle the work and ensure health and safety compliance.
Not only will their knowledge and experience help minimise any disruption to your business during the risk assessment, but they can make sure you avoid any costly problems later down the line.
For more information about what to expect during your risk assessment – and what needs to happen afterwards to make sure you stay compliant with water safety regulations – download The facilities manager’s guide to legionella risk assessments.