Legionella is a bacteria associated with water systems such as water tanks, pipework, baths and shower-heads, mainly in domestic properties. There is also the potential for legionella bacteria to become airbourne in water droplets, mist or spray and be inhaled, which can potentially cause a range of pneumonia-like illnesses.
The health and safety risks associated with exposure to legionella bacteria can be severe. There is often much confusion surrounding the subject of legionella and the landlords responsibilities.
Landlords have a duty of care to those who occupy their properties. Part of a landlords duty of care responsibilities will involve managing and minimising the legionella risk. A legionella risk assessment is therefore a vital part of this process to ensure the health and safety of the occupants in a building.
We have compiled this legionella risk assessment guide for landlords, which aims to help landlords understand more about their duty of care responsibilities to tenants. Doing so will ensure their health and safety and will help you, as the landlord, stay on the right side of the law.
What is Legionnaires Disease?
Legionnaires disease is a bacterial disease that can bring about a potentially fatal form of pneumonia.
The bacterium Legionella pneumophila and related bacteria is usually found in natural water sources such as lakes, rivers and reservoirs. This Legionella bacterium is likely to be found in low numbers, so it very rarely has any adverse effect on people. However, the bacteria can also be found in purpose-built water systems such as cooling towers, hot and cold water systems, evaporative condensers and spa pools.
If the conditions are favourable and the legionella bacteria can grow, it can increase the risk of Legionnaires disease. This will then pose a risk to people’s health and safety. It is therefore important to control the risks by introducing appropriate measures to avoid such a situation.
Who is at risk of contracting Legionella?
Everyone is susceptible, however, the risk does increase with age and certain circumstances, in particular for:
- the over 45’s
- smokers and heavy drinkers
- those with underlying health conditions such as respiratory or kidney problems, lung and heart disease
- those with impaired immune systems and, in particular, those already suffering from diabetes
What is the law in relation to landlords and Legionella?
Firstly, let’s clear up a couple of common myths.
The introduction of the L8 ACOP has imposed new legislation on landlords…
No, it hasn’t, the legislation has not changed!
Landlords are required to pay for legionella testing certificates, which the HSE insists upon.
No, this is simply not true. Legionella testing certificates do not exist and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) does not recognise the aforementioned certificates!
Don’t just take our word for it, check out the HSE’s website; https://www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/faqs.htm#Testing-monitoring
For most domestic properties, with some research, the risk can be assessed by the landlord. Expensive testing and sampling are not required other than in the most exceptional circumstances.
What landlords do have is a legal obligation and a duty of care not to expose their tenants to anything that could affect their health or safety.
So, Is a landlord competent enough to assess the risk from Legionella?
On the whole, this is eminently possible with domestic properties, but it does involve assessing the legionella risk in individual types of property.
Legionella bacteria thrives at temperatures between 20°C and 50°C. This means that one of the key legionella control measures for minimising Legionella’s risk in hot and cold water systems is testing to make sure that cold water is cold (i.e., below 20°C), and the hot water is hot (above 50°C).
Take, for example, a small two-bedroom, one-bathroom property with two people sharing. The property has a direct mains cold water feed (no cold-water storage tank) and a sealed, pressurised hot water systems heated from a boiler or electric emersion heater.
The Legionella risk for this property type is extremely low. The reason for this is that most taps in the property will be opened regularly, so there is a good constant flow of water, which ensures a full turnover of the water there. Hot water systems should be kept at an operational temperature of 60°C (instant delivery heater 50°C). All connected redundant pipework should be removed, ensuring no dead ends.
Combine this with an information sheet on cleaning shower heads regularly and, you have assessed the risk and minimised the chance of exposure to legionella bacteria proliferating. This risk assessment could be replicated for a landlords other properties of a similar configuration.
In larger properties, a legionella risk assessment should be based on the usage of the individual rooms; for example, there may be a guest bathroom that is used infrequently, just when guests are staying.
Little used water outlets such as taps and showers can be a breeding ground for legionella bacteria. To counteract this, put a flushing regime in place with the occupants or tenants. Taps should be opened once a week to flush out the system. If the water in the guest bathroom is heated independently, the water should be heated to an operational temperature above 50 degrees Celcius before the hot water taps are flushed.
Things are a little different for commercial properties. Depending on the property/properties’ size, it would be prudent to have a professional assessment undertaken. Your chosen consultant credentials need to be competent and experienced in the sector your property sits in, therefore, due diligence is highly recommended.
The next stage after a legionella risk assessment would be, the “Duty Holder,” usually the owner or senior director, would appoint a dedicated “Responsible Person.” This person should have sufficient authority, competence, and knowledge of the installations under their control. This will ensure that all operational procedures are carried out safely and in a timely and effective manner to protect people’s health and safety in the workplace. The responsible person will require dedicated training to assume this role.
At this point, and if all identified significant findings have been addressed, it would be easy to think the process is complete, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
How often should a legionella risk assessment be carried out?
Once the water system in your property is compliant, it needs to stay that way. Full compliance is only achieved by implementing a regime of checks and balances, including, but not limited to, temperature monitoring, flushing of outlets that are not regularly utilised and regular checks on any tanks to ensure cleanliness and temperature compliance.
But what would you class as regular when carrying out legionella risk assessments? In simple buildings, the potential risks associated with legionella will be a lot lower. It is therefore recommended that a review of your legionella risk assessment be carried out every two years. However, if there are any significant changes to the building, or you operate a much larger, open water systems, then it may be advisable to undertake legionella risk assessments on a more regular basis.
Administering the Legionella risk assessment and management process
You may choose to carry out and maintain records in a hard-copy format for one or two properties. As long as you keep your paperwork up to date, have programmed in your regular checks, balances and reviews, especially if you have undertaken any remedial works or changes to either the building or the water system, you will be fine. You’ll have a record of your risk management and be able to evidence it.
If you’re managing multiple buildings or sites, you should consider a software package, simply because it will make your life much easier.
ACMS UK’s Vision Legionella software allows you to track the complete process from undertaking initial legionella risk assessments to initiating a monitoring regime to ensure you have your finger firmly on the pulse.
The Vision system is also integrated with remote temperature monitoring allowing for temperatures to be taken and recorded on a minute by minute basis, delivering powerful business intelligence on where your risk lies BEFORE it becomes a risk.
To get an idea of what a legionella risk assessment looks like within the software package, give us a call and we can allocate you a log-in and walk you through an online demonstration.
Developments and future-proofing
Using the technology available today can save both time and money with remote temperature monitoring being a perfect example. By negating the need to run taps and check temperatures manually, significant savings can outweigh the initial cost outlay.
The Vision software system also fully integrates both RFiD and NFC (Near Field Communication) tagging. By utilising these tags, both rooms and individual assets can be electronically tagged. Once tagged, the room or single asset can be immediately identified, along with any checks that require monitoring.
Both the scan and the data update can be achieved on a mobile phone and instantly uploaded to the primary Vision system and any non-compliances or remedial requirements can be quickly sent to the management team via the automated Vision alerts system.
Want to know more about the legionella risk assessment and management capabilities of the Vision Software?
For more information about the legionella risk assessment and management module within the Vision software, contact ACMS UK today and book a demonstration. Alternatively, call one of our specialist advisors on +44(0) 115 922 0600