It is crucial for employers, landlords and others responsible for the control of premises to be well-informed on what their duties are in health and safety law. Legionella bacteria, for instance, can – if the conditions lend themselves to it – arise in manmade water systems and pose a serious risk to human health. Exposure to the bacteria may lead to the development of Legionnaires’ disease, which is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia.
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 covers various responsibilities that affected duty holders are expected to be aware of, extending to the risks that legionella can pose. More specifically, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) set out a framework of actions that allow for such risks to be assessed, prevented or controlled.
If you are an employer or another person in control of premises, health and safety on those premises are your responsibility. This means it is up to you to take the appropriate precautions to minimise the risk of someone on your premises coming into contact with legionella. But what does it mean in practical terms.. for instance, who should carry out a legionella risk assessment?
Can you undertake a legionella risk assessment yourself?
While ensuring that a risk assessment for legionella is carried out will be your responsibility, it does not necessarily follow that you are the individual who should be physically carrying out that assessment.
Indeed, you may decide that you are not competent to undertake the assessment yourself, in which case, you should seek help and advice from elsewhere, which may include people within your organisation or from outside sources, such as consultancies.
One example of a situation in which you might feel able to undertake the legionella risk assessment yourself, is if you are a landlord of a domestic rental property. In most residential settings, water usage and turnover tend to be frequent, so it is generally thought that the legionella risks from hot and cold-water systems in these properties are relatively low.
Most landlords, then, will be able to assess the risk themselves, without the need for professional training or accreditation. Even in this situation, though, if you do not feel competent to carry out the assessment or simply do not wish to do so, there is always the option of arranging for someone else to undertake the risk assessment on your behalf.
So, as an employer or someone else in control of premises, you can appoint yourself to this role, or one or more of your workers, or someone from outside your business, or a combination of these. Even if you decide to employ an external professional such as a contractor, however, you should be satisfied before they start work that they will be able to do it to the standard you require.
What is involved in a legionella risk assessment?
Given that the purpose of a legionella risk assessment is to pinpoint and assess any risks in a given water system, whoever is carrying out your own assessment will need to have a good understanding of your premises’ specific water systems and the associated equipment.
This expertise will help them to determine whether, among other things, water is stored or recirculated as part of your system, as well as whether the water temperature in some or all parts of the system are between 20 degrees C and 45 degrees C.
The responsible person will also need to consider whether conditions are present that could encourage legionella bacteria to multiply, and whether any users of the building could be particularly susceptible to infection as a consequence of factors such as age, illness or a weakened immune system.
The risk assessment will need to include the name of the ‘competent person’ – in other words, the person with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety on the premises.
The assessment should also encompass a description of the water system, potential sources of risk, and the measures that are in place to control these risks, as well as records of the monitoring results, inspections and checks carried out.
How often should this assessment be carried out?
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)’s Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) document on Legionnaires’ disease (L8), the record that you keep of your legionella assessment “is a living document that must be reviewed to ensure it remains up-to-date.”
The guidance formerly stated that a legionella risk assessment should be reviewed a minimum of every two years. Today, no specific timeframe is put on this by the L8 document; in practice, however, you should continue to arrange to review your risk assessment every two years, or whenever there is a significant change that would give you reason to suspect the most recent assessment is no longer valid.
Examples of the latter set out by the L8 guidance include – but are not limited to – changes to the water system or its use, changes to the use of the building in which the water system is installed, and a case of Legionnaires’ disease associated with the system.
How to record your findings
Also set out in the ACOP L8 document is the importance of recording the significant findings of the legionella risk assessment.
The records maintained should include details of any groups of employees who were identified as being at particular risk, and the steps taken to prevent or control risks. While there is no statutory duty for an employer to write anything down if they have fewer than five employees, they may nonetheless find it useful to maintain a written record of what has been done.
The L8 guidance also lists further aspects that written records should include information about. These include the appointed person(s) responsible for carrying out the risk assessment and managing and implementing the written scheme, as well as any significant findings of the risk assessment, and details about the state of operation of the water system.
The ACOP also makes clear that “these records should be maintained throughout the period they are current and for at least two years afterwards. Retain records of any monitoring inspection, test or check carried out, and the dates, for at least five years.”
You may choose to have the findings of your risk assessment literally written down, typed up into a document, or contained within a legionella risk assessment template like the one provided as standard by our own Vision Pro software.
How can legionella risk assessment software help?
As stated, there are multiple means by which you can maintain records in relation to your legionella risk assessments. However, if you’re looking for consistency, compliance and secure accessibility for all those that need to update or view the data, hard copy reports or spreadsheets quickly become out of date.
For streamlining the process and helping to ensure you fulfil all your duties connected to legionella compliance, you will be hard-pressed to find a better solution on the market than our Vision Pro platform. This software includes a legionella risk management platform that not only gives you a single, central place to record your risk assessments and significant finds, but also guides and supports your all-round legionella compliance and management efforts.
With its features and functionality encompassing the likes of the ACOP L8 audit template, easy-to-use dashboards, the ability to upload documents and drawings, a mobile app for on-site data collection, and much more, Vision Pro can make it so much easier for you to maintain your duty of care in this crucial area.
With the use of NFC (near field communication) technology and a mobile phone (for the mobile app) it is easy to locate, identify and tag all water assets. These assets can be embedded into the risk assessment making it a living, breathing database of all your legionella needs. Compliance becomes standard as the management of the data – in one place – becomes proactive and therefore much easier.
For more detailed advice and guidance in relation to our legionella risk management software and other aspects of this highly regarded platform, please feel free to call the Vision Pro team today.