Is your workplace protecting people from legionella?

As more and more workplaces open up following the latest round of lockdowns there are lots of things that employers need to consider, to ensure employees and visitors to their premises remain safe.

One-way systems have become the norm in many workplaces and the use of face masks and other Covid-19 related measures have become a part of everyday life but there are other issues that employers need to consider.

One that we wanted to concentrate on today is the possibility that legionella risks have developed at your workplace during the course of the pandemic.

Employers, self-employed people and people in control of premises, such as landlords, have a duty to protect people by identifying and controlling risks associated with legionella.

For example, most letting agencies will insist that landlords of rented properties have a legionella assessment on a change of tenancy to ensure the new tenant is entering a safe property.

If your building was closed or has had reduced occupancy during the pandemic, water system stagnation can occur due to lack of use, increasing the risks of Legionnaires’ disease.

To counteract this, you should review the risk assessment you have in place and manage legionella risks when you reinstate a water system or start using it again and also when you restart certain types of air conditioning units. Small wall or ceiling-mounted units with closed cooling systems should not present a risk. However, larger units may present a risk if they have improperly drained condensate trays, or humidifier or evaporative cooling sections where water can stagnate, becoming a reservoir for bacteria to grow. 

Why do I need to consider the risk of legionella?

Legionellosis is the collective term for diseases caused by legionella bacteria including the most serious Legionnaires’ disease, as well as the similar but less serious conditions of Pontiac fever and Lochgoilhead fever.

Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and everyone is susceptible to infection. The risk increases with age, but some people are at higher risk including:

  • people over 45 years of age
  • smokers and heavy drinkers
  • people suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease
  • diabetes, lung and heart disease
  • anyone with an impaired immune system.

People contract Legionnaires’ disease by inhaling small droplets of water, suspended in the air, containing the bacteria.

Businesses which fail to comply with Health and Safety Executive (HSE) legislation on controlling the risks associated with the water-borne bacteria, Legionella, risk facing prosecution and potentially huge fines.

To give you an idea of the size of fines that organisations face, in December 2018 Tendring District Council was fined £27,000 after an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at the Lifestyles leisure centre in Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex in November 2016 left a man fighting for his life.

A few months earlier, in April 2018, Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust was fined £300,000 after failing to control the risk to patients from exposure to legionella bacteria in its water systems. The prosecution followed the death of a patient at Bath’s Royal United Hospital in July 2015 which prompted an investigation by the HSE. It found the trust had failed to put in place all of the necessary precautions to minimise the risk to patients in the annex to the William Budd ward from exposure to legionella since the annex was opened in 2009. Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and as well as being fined was ordered to pay costs of £37,451.78.

The HSE has recently published guidance about managing legionella risks during the coronavirus pandemic so it is a safe assumption that this is very much on the organisation’s radar. As a result, it would be wise for workplaces to make sure they are not only protecting their employees and visitors from this potentially deadly disease but also their organisations from the risk of prosecution.

There is a wealth of information available on the HSE website about identifying and managing the risks, preventing or controlling the risks, keeping records and specific risk systems here

The HSE has also produced a detailed Approved Code of Practice and Guidance on the control of legionella bacteria in water systems which is available here

However, we understand that this can be a lot to deal with for company bosses – particularly those who are in the midst of welcoming back more people to their workplaces for the first time in months.

So, if you need help getting a handle on this problem contact our experienced team of health and safety consultants. We assist organisations with every aspect of their health and safety needs to ensure they comply with health and safety regulations.

We will work closely with your business to identify risks in your workplace and provide advice on how they can be controlled so you have peace of mind, knowing that we have ensured you are meeting your legal obligations.

If you need health and safety advice visit https://acornhealthandsafety.co.uk/ today or contact us at info@acornhealthandsafety.co.uk or on 01604 930380.

Need help with Health and Safety? Request a call back!

Request a call back from one of our expert Health and Safety Consultants who can help you whatever your health and safety, CDM or fire risk needs.

More Health and Safety Articles & News

Health And Safety Workplace

Can you help make our workplaces safer?

By Neil Munro | 2nd March 2021

The benefits of health and safety at work are compelling and yet across the world 2.3m lose their lives every year because of work-related accidents or illness. On top of this, millions more are left in poor health, in pain or incapacitated by workplace injuries. The need to improve safety and health in workplaces worldwide …

Read more

Don’t Cut Health And Safety Corners

Don’t cut Health and Safety corners

By Ian Stone | 23rd February 2021

One of the biggest threats to workplace Health and Safety in this country is apathy. It’s not fair to say, in the majority of cases, that company bosses and managers don’t care about the safety of their workforces and subcontractors however, all too often health and safety matters are left to slide. When bosses are …

Read more

Does Your Business Need To Consider Health And Safety Law?

Does your business need to consider Health and Safety law?

By Neil Munro | 19th February 2021

So, today we have a question for you. Do you know what a nursing home, yoghurt manufacturer, theme park, housing association, recycling company, a senior school and a logistics firm all have in common? The answer is they’ve all been fined for health and safety breaches during the past three months. Altogether, they have faced …

Read more

Cdm Regulations

CDM regulations how seriously should constructors take them?

By Ian Stone | 9th February 2021

In last week’s blog we revealed details of a very sad case in which a sub-contractor suffered serious injuries when a stack of plasterboards fell on him at a construction site he was working on in Surrey in breach of the CDM regulations. The case illustrated not only the dangers facing workers on construction sites …

Read more

Risks On Construction

Are you taking risks on your construction site?

By Neil Munro | 2nd February 2021

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recently revealed the details a sad case in which a sub-contractor suffered serious injuries when a stack of plasterboards fell on him at a construction site he was working on in Surrey. The sub-contractors were moving sheets of plasterboard weighing 32kg each from the ground floor to the second …

Read more

Health And Safety Breaches

Will new HSE director mean more prosecutions for Health and Safety breaches?

By Ian Stone | 26th January 2021

Last month, the HSE began the search for its new Director of Legal Services. This is interesting because this is a brand new position that has been created at the organisation following the HSE’s recent Chief Executive-led review. The HSE said the new role was pivotal and would contribute to directly to public confidence in …

Read more

Covid Health And Safety

Would your firm pass a Covid Health and Safety spot check?

By Neil Munro | 19th January 2021

Businesses have had a lot to contend with once again in recent weeks. Whilst some businesses are continuing their normal day-to-day operations as best they can others have had to temporarily close their workplaces once more or manage staff working from home. Whatever group your business falls into it’s essential that you carry out appropriate …

Read more

Positive Health And Safety

Create a positive Health and Safety culture at your workplace in 2021

By Ian Stone | 12th January 2021

It’s that time of year again when we’re either congratulating ourselves on still keeping up with our New Year’s Resolutions or quietly hoping that no one else will notice we’ve already let them slide. Maybe being stuck indoors a lot recently has made you determined to get more exercise this year or maybe you want …

Read more

Keeping Safe During Lockdown

Keeping you safe during lockdown

By Neil Munro | 7th January 2021

For many businesses the introduction of another national lockdown earlier this week was a bitter pill to swallow. It’s disheartening to know that so many businesses have had to close their doors once again as the country battles to halt the latest rise in Coronavirus cases. However, we are aware that many of our colleagues …

Read more

Health And Safety Breaches 1

We can protect you from Health & Safety breaches

By Ian Stone | 29th December 2020

We all know Health & Safety is a serious matter but all too often company bosses treat the subject with a sense of weariness or complacency. When directors are trying to juggle the complexities of running their day-to-day operation whilst managing their strategic goals, Health & Safety can easily become something that slips off their …

Read more