Legionella is a type of bacteria typically found in water. Perfect temperature for their growth is around 20 to 45oC. Legionella can’t survive temperatures over 60oC. Disease caused by this type of bacteria is called Legionnaires’ disease, and it’s a potentially fatal type of pneumonia. It can be contacted by inhaling the droplets of contaminated water. Most commonly the ones who develop this disease are smokers, elderly, alcoholics and those who have cancer. However, the truth is anyone can develop it.
The source of those contaminated droplets can be different, cold and hot water outlets, air conditioning plants, whirlpools, atomisers or hydrotherapy baths.
Any workplace that has: a cooling tower, cooling systems, hot and cold water systems, humidifiers, emergency showers, indoor ornamental fountains, and similar, is at risk of exposure.
Technically, any water system where the temperature of the water is between 20-45oC, or if it can spread droplets, re-circulate water, or it might contain some source of food for the bacteria, is at risk of being contaminated by Legionella.
The landlord, owner or an employer, or whoever is in charge of the premises that are at risk of contamination, has to understand the health risk and know how to manage it. The framework of actions that should be taken in order to prevent or control the risk is offered by Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).
The first step is identifying and assessing the source of the risk. It’s possible for the legionella risk assessment to be done by owners or employers in some cases, but in others, it’s advisable for them to call for advice from consultancies or perhaps from someone from within the organization.
The person in charge of managing risks should be able to understand the water systems and the equipment that comes with them, meaning all sorts of pumps, heat exchangers, etc.
Some things have to be checked in order to see how likely they are to create risk from exposure to Legionella. That means checking: the temperature of the water; is the water being re-circulated; are there any nutrients in the water that bacteria might use; are water droplets being produced.
The risk assessment includes making sure that the staff is trained and competent to detect if there is a risk of exposure. Also, the water systems should be regularly monitored and responsibly maintained. Any monitoring results should be recorded, as well as the time of the last inspection.
The job is complete when the owner, or the person in charge, concludes that the risk of exposure is reduced to a minimum. The appointed responsible person can act alone, or it can be more people acting together. The owner might choose to bring in someone from outside the organization, but the competent person is still required for making sure that the treatment is being carried out well.
When the source of risk is detected, certain steps should be taken. Firstly, the course of action should be introduced and the control measures implemented. Deciding what the safest and the most effective solution is, is crucial. After the risk is nullified, regular checkups are in order.