An ever-pressing priority for property managers, employers and landlords is to identify, manage and minimise the risks that legionella may present to the property, facility or workplace for which they are responsible. Indeed, legionella risk assessments are legally required for landlords and employers.
What, however, are some of the potential legionella risks to which you need to be alert with regard to your own premises? Below, we have outlined three of the biggest risk factors.
What is Legionnaires’ disease and who is at risk for legionella?
Legionella bacteria are frequently found in water, typically multiplying in conditions where nutrients are available and temperatures are between 20 degrees C and 45 degrees C.
When someone inhales airborne water droplets that contain viable legionella bacteria, this can lead to them contracting Legionnaires’ disease, an uncommon but potentially fatal type of pneumonia. Droplets containing legionella can arise from a variety of sources, such as hot and cold water outlets, atomisers, whirlpool or hydrotherapy baths, and wet air conditioning plants.
While anyone can potentially develop Legionnaires’ disease, the risk can be particularly high for the elderly, alcoholics, smokers and those with diabetes, cancer or chronic respiratory or kidney disease.
What is the main cause of legionella?
Legionella bacteria are especially likely to grow in stagnant water and in temperatures that lend themselves well to the bacteria’s survival. It is therefore imperative that those responsible for premises where legionella can sometimes grow – such as offices, hospitals and hotels – take steps to guard against this risk.
It is known that Legionnaires’ disease can be contracted from such sources as humidifiers, spa pools, hot tubs and taps and showers that are not frequently used. However, it is not normally possible to develop the condition as a result of drinking water that contains the bacteria, or from contact with other people who have the infection.
Legionella risk factors and how to control them
Below are the most common factors that can increase a given building or facility’s susceptibility to legionella, and what property managers, employers and landlords can do to manage these risks:
As mentioned, stagnant water is a key breeding ground for legionella, which makes areas without frequent water flow – such as rarely used outlet pipes – a particular risk.
Responsible individuals can better control the risk redundant piping poses by surveying the building’s hot and cold water systems and bringing its full schematic diagram – including the water flow – up to date.
This will then enable the competent person to begin devising an informed strategy for controlling legionella in these areas, including removing dead legs in pipework, and flushing out rarely used outlets at least once a week.
Infected cold water tanks
Legionella can also quickly grow in cold water tanks. This makes it crucial to put in place a routine for cleaning and disinfecting cooling towers and hot and cold water systems a minimum of once every six months.
The process needs to account for the first concentration of oxidising biocide in use for the pre and post-cleaning disinfection stages, as well as contact time for each stage, and how exactly the cleaning will be carried out.
Lukewarm water temperature
It is advised that the hot tap water in a property is always at least 50 degrees C, and that cold tap water is kept at 20 degrees C or below. The water temperature inside the boiler, meanwhile, should be 60 degrees C as a minimum. These temperatures are recommended due to legionella bacteria being dormant below 20 degrees and unable to survive above 60 degrees.
By contrast, lukewarm water temperatures of around 25 degrees C to 42 degrees C present conditions that allow for the exponential growth of legionella. The installation of temperature sensors can therefore be invaluable for guarding against legionella risks in a property.
Who is responsible for managing legionella risk factors?
Employers, or those otherwise in control of particular premises, are required to appoint someone competent to assist them in meeting their health and safety duties, and to take responsibility for controlling any identified risk from legionella bacteria exposure.
As a property manager, employer or landlord, you may choose to appoint yourself as this competent person – also often referred to as the ‘responsible person’. Alternatively, one or more of your workers or someone from outside your business may take on the role.
Whatever decision you make, this person needs to be someone with sufficient authority, competence, experience, the necessary skills, and knowledge of the system.
How to prevent legionella and manage your legionella risk
An important component of responsible legionella risk management is ensuring that a full risk assessment has been carried out of your premises’ hot and cold water systems.
Such a risk assessment is likely to encompass such processes as putting together a schematic diagram of the given property, checking that the hot water supply is stored at the correct temperature, inspecting taps and shower heads for scale, and making sure there are records for the temperature maintenance of both hot and cold water supply outlets.
Another potentially crucial tool for your management of legionella risk could be a software package, such as Assets & Compliance Managed Services UK’s Vision platform, that would make it easier for you to manage the whole legionella risk, beyond simply the risk assessment.
What are the benefits of using software to manage your legionella risk?
Investing in dedicated legionella risk management software – like the specific module Assets & Compliance Managed Services UK can offer – allows you to potentially enjoy all of the below advantages:
- It provides an all-in-one solution, with no need to keep on top of awkward and disorganised paperwork for the management of your legionella risk assessments and control measures.
- It is likely to be cloud-based, which makes it a much more secure and convenient option than a spreadsheet or other document kept on a single on-site device’s hard drive.
- It retains historic data and documents, so if you choose new suppliers or have chosen to use external contractors in the past and now want to bring the legionella maintenance in-house, your previous data will all be stored in the system and there’s no need for a lengthy or messy handover.
- It can be perfect for multi-site organisations that may otherwise struggle to achieve a complete and up-to-date overview of the legionella risk management situation at all of their sites.
- Multiple users, whatever their requirements, from overseeing to hands-on maintenance, can access the information they need to deliver the results expected of them.
- An associated mobile app makes everyday use of the Vision system – including data collection – even easier.
- Vision’s easy, customisable reporting allows users to build the legionella risk management module around the circumstances and needs of their own organisation and property portfolio.
- The Vision software allows for real-time updates, meaning you don’t need to be left with computer spreadsheets or paper documents that contain woefully out-of-date data when seeking to manage the very real risk that legionella can pose.
- Use of the latest integrated digital technology, ie. the Vision-tag allows for remote monitoring and easy ongoing maintenance.
To discover more about what can make the Vision platform from Assets & Compliance Managed Services UK such a complete compliance solution for the management of legionella risks and so much more, please do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our specialist advisors. We would also be pleased to introduce you to the software more directly when you book a demonstration.