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16/06/15 Legionnaires' disease: what employers and landlords need to know

Legionnaires' disease

If you are an employer or responsible for any business premises that has a water system then you need to be aware of legionella bacteria. There are serious consequences for those that don't carry out risk assessments, from a fine to being prosecuted, because the legionella bacteria causes the potentially fatal Legionnaires' disease.

Legionella bacteria are found in lakes, rivers and reservoirs in low numbers, but under certain conditions they can multiply. They like warmth – 20-45° is best – and nutrients such as sludge, rust and organic matter to feed on: that's why the most common sources of legionella are cooling towers and evaporative condensers, hot and cold water systems, and spa pools.

Legionnaires' disease is caught by inhaling the bacteria, explains Steve Tugwell, Water Treatment Director at TSS Facilities in Hove. He warns, "The best delivery system of Legionella bacteria is a rarely-used shower where it atomises the water and you inhale that into your lungs."

Current regulations in the UK state that any person responsible for a building has a duty to understand and manage Legionella risks: landlords and managers of housing associations, universities, beauty spas, offices and other businesses all need to be aware of their responsibilities.

"To make sure your business is assessed correctly, it is best to choose a company recognised by the Legionella Control Association" says Steve, adding: "It's important to have a good quality risk assessment for Legionella. The company should specify exactly what they are risk assessing and then following that they can advise you on how best to move forward. We are an LCA category 1 company, and we are audited every year to ensure that we adhere to strict criteria and standards."

A good risk assessment will involve a site survey of the building and a look at the plant and equipment to ensure that it conforms to the relevant British standards. It will also include an audit of the maintenance and temperature monitoring records, as well as a schematic drawing of the system.

"The type of users should also affect the risk assessment", explains Steve: "This is where the skill of a risk assessor becomes apparent, because it is not just about the plant but also about how the systems are used and who the population is. The higher risk groups are male, the over 50s, drinkers and smokers. Children are lower risk. Statistically men are more likely to catch Legionnaires' disease than women."

As well as providing tailored water hygiene maintenance for all businesses, TSS Facilities offers basic Legionella training awareness courses and creates in-house monitoring systems to allow companies to ensure that Legionella monitoring is kept at a high level in between the TSS team's regular risk assessments. A simple recommendation from TSS for hotels, for example, would be to establish a system of room rotation so that all water outlets are used regularly even if the hotel is not fully booked all season.

Not knowing how to manage the risk of legionella at your premises could be a costly oversight. To book a free, no obligation survey now, call 01273 719111, email or visit

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