The dangers of Legionnaires’ disease: how to stop the spread

The dangers of Legionnaires’ disease: how to stop the spread

In England and Wales, 57 individuals died due to contracting Legionnaires’ disease between 2014 to 2016. Statistics show people with respiratory or heart conditions, smokers and diabetics are at higher risk, and men are more likely to die from it than women. So, what are you doing to protect your employees or tenants from Legionnaires’ disease?

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially deadly form of pneumonia caused by the inhalation of water droplets containing legionella bacteria, usually from water sources such as rivers and lakes. The bacteria can survive treatment processes and can be found inside plumbing systems – however, they don’t become a problem unless conditions are right for them to grow and multiply.

Is there a legionella risk in my workplace/property?

Legionella bacteria thrives in water systems between 20-45°C and if the system contains a source of nutrients for the legionella bacteria to grow, such as rust, scale, organic matter or biofilms.

The most common sources of legionella are man-made water systems including:

  • Cooling tower and evaporative condensers
  • Hot and cold water systems
  • Spa pools

How to prevent an outbreak

If you are an employer, or someone in control of premises, including landlords, you must understand the health risks associated with legionella. Employers and landlords are responsible for health and safety and must take precautions to control and prevent a potential outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. You must understand how to:

  • Identify and assess sources of risk
  • Manage any risks
  • Prevent or control any risks
  • Keep and maintain the correct records
  • Carry out any other duties you may have

To identify and assess the sources of risk, a legionella risk assessment must be completed to understand your water systems and equipment associated with it such as pumps, heat exchangers and showers.

You must also manage the risk by appointing a competent person to help you meet your health and safety duties, including risk from exposure to legionella bacteria. The competent person must make sure any treatment is carried out to the required standards.

The control measures to conquer legionella

You must consider whether you can avoid the risk of legionella by looking at the type of water system you need. For example, identify if it is possible to replace a wet cooling tower with a dry air-cooled system.

If you identify a risk that you are unable to prevent, you must introduce a course of action such as a written control scheme that will help you to manage the risk from legionella by implementing effective control measure.

You must put control measures in place to:

  • Make sure the release of water spray is regulated
  • Avoid conditions that increase growth of legionella bacteria
  • Make sure water cannot stagnate in the system
  • Avoid materials that encourage the growth of legionella.

Remember to always keep records of your findings too.

How can EEUK help?

We are experts in water quality testing and legionella risk assessments. Our consultants are qualified to test for legionella in every type of water system and help employers and landlords across the UK to manage and control legionella bacteria regularly. Our mission is to stop unnecessary harm and deaths from happening due to an employer or landlord not taking the proper steps to prevent legionella risk.

In complex systems, we will do a site survey of all water systems, including an asset register of all associated plant, pumps, strainers, and other relevant items. We can discover whether there is a risk of exposure to legionella bacteria, and devise scheme to control the risk.

Get in touch with us today to find out more about how we can help with legionella risk assessments.