How Do You Know If Legionella Is Present In Your Building?

Understand The Threat Posed By Legionella Bacteria

Strict legionella regulations require you to carry out risk assessments and periodic testing for the presence of this deadly bacteria.

Legionnaire’s Disease is a rare but serious health condition which occurs in around 300 to 500 people in England and Wales each year. The disease affects the respiratory system by inflaming the lungs and is the equivalent of a more severe form of pneumonia. It is caused when a person unknowingly inhales tiny droplets of water from the air, which contain the bacteria known as legionella. These bacteria thrive in water which can either be from natural sources such as rivers or waterfalls, or else manmade water systems within a building. Now that you’re aware of how serious the presence of legionella can be, this guide will help you determine how to assess the risks of this health hazard being in your building.

Legal Responsibilities

Due to the seriousness of this contaminant, and the way in which it can affect occupants of a building if it is present in a water system, there are certain legal responsibilities to adhere to. The main regulations to satisfy are the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Act and the Health and Safety at Work 1974 Act. It is essential that landlords of commercial or domestic premises follow these legalities to the letter in order to protect all tenants and occupants of the building you own or manage.

Understanding Where Legionella May Be Present

Any building that has a water tank may find that legionella is present in their water systems. The bacteria thrives in any location where the water is stagnant or else if there are low temperatures in a hot water system. If your storage cylinders dip below 50C, then you may be inadvertently encouraging the presence of legionella. Similarly, cold water should be distributed at less than 20C and hot water at over 50C to create an environment which would typically be hostile to legionella.

Carrying Out A Risk Assessment

Even if you’re confident that your water systems match the guidelines, you will only satisfy regulations by carrying out a periodic legionella risk assessment to determine whether your building could potentially contain this contaminant. Where a risk is identified, clear controls must be put into place to ensure that there is a defined strategy to deal with the likely threat. In order to meet the necessary legal requirements, it would be advisable to call in professional legionella experts who are certified members of the Legionella Control Association. They will be able to take water samples from high risk areas of your water environment and all testing will comply to strict BSRIA and CIBSE guidelines.

Remember that even if legionella is not detected at a test, that doesn’t mean that it may not be present in the future. Therefore, conducting periodic testing every couple of years is essential, along with sticking to a risk assessment strategy in-between in case the situation changes.

Although Legionnaire’s Disease is rare, it can unfortunately be fatal, which is why you should always take your responsibilities to assess for legionella seriously. Stick to the regulations to protect all occupants of your building.

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