Legionella in Water Systems

So, it’s looking like your business may be able to open up again soon, but have you been keeping an eye on your water systems?

If your water flow has been stagnant for a while, this increases the risk of Legionella bacteria growing.

This risk applies to most commercial buildings, not just ones with lots of water use. Even if you only have a single sink, water tank, toilet, shower or any other small water system, you still need to follow the same important guidelines that businesses with lots of water systems do.

A Brief Guide to Legionella

Legionella causes Legionnaires’ disease, a form of pneumonia with a threateningly high mortality rate. This fatal illness is particularly dangerous to the following groups:  

  • Anyone over 45 years old
  • People with impaired immune systems
  • Those suffering from respiratory, kidney, lung or heart problems
  • People with diabetes
  • Smokers
  • Heavy drinkers

The bacteria dwells in water, thriving in temperatures between 20-45°C. It can occur in all sorts of regularly used water systems if the water storage temperature isn’t carefully monitored (including water tanks, air conditioners, plumbing systems, cooling towers, spray systems, hot tubs, hoses and more).

This has serious implications for businesses, who are obliged by their Duty of Care to properly risk assess and monitor water systems.

What Should You Do?

Many hot and cold water systems may have been unused during closure, so the chance of Legionella forming will increase if no action is taken (especially as hot weather persists). Good maintenance of water systems and proactive caution are vital preventative methods to reduce the risk of Legionella contamination.

If you’ve been away from your business for a while, or if water flow has been altered over lockdown, then you must conduct a Risk Assessment and thorough checks to ensure the building is safe.

Public Health England (PHE) advises that water systems should be regularly flushed to prevent the spread of bacteria while premises are shut, especially in the likes of dental practices, hairdressers, gyms, hotels and office buildings. Flushing out systems will help to stop bacterial growth, as will the following steps:

  • Maintain water temperatures above 60°C for hot water and below 20°C for cold water
  • Keep faucets clean
  • Test water samples
  • Notify employees of procedures
  • Keep Risk Assessments updated
  • Keep records of safety measures

Legionella Guidance & Support

PHE suggest that closed premises undertake a detailed review of all water systems before reopening, only by competent personnel with the right skills and knowledge. If a water system requires disinfection then a water consultant will be needed.

If your business doesn’t have a Responsible Person/Health and Safety Officer trained in Legionella prevention, then you can always invest in the support of professionals.

Remember, poor flow, or no flow, of water systems heightens the risk of Legionella contamination, which also increases the risk of illnesses, fatalities, reputation breakdown, fines and even closure – so if you’re unsure about anything, it’s best to call upon a Legionella prevention service to help your business.

For more information on Legionella, browse through the following detailed articles:

Professional Risk Assessments & Water Management

At Direct365, we’ll defend your business against an outbreak by providing a thorough Risk Assessment and offering guidance to keep you safe and compliant to British Standards.

Our LCA-certified engineers will tailor a flexible action plan to your business, provide a written review and ensure that you’re compliant to the L8 Approved Code of Practice. Your service can also include interim health checks to monitor your water systems and minimise future risks.

We use an electronic log book system – immediately accessible anywhere, anytime – and make our quotes and service specific to each business’s needs. Oh, and did we mention that we always provide free legal paperwork? Proving your Duty of Care compliance has never been easier!

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