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 Rules Post Brexit

What will Health & Safety rules look like after Brexit?

By Neil Munro | 22nd December 2020

We’ve heard a lot of talk in recent weeks and months about Health & Safety laws will look like in the UK post-Brexit. Some people are under the impression that with the end of our relationship with the EU that the Health and Safety rules that we live by will get thrown out the window. …

Read more

Health &Amp; Safety Is Needless Red Ape

Health & Safety is just needless red tape, right?

By Ian Stone | 15th December 2020

We know that Health & Safety is not everyone’s favourite topic. Often, it’s accompanied by much head scratching and sighing as firms try to get to grips with what they see as needless red tape. Whilst firms can often feel like they are drowning in regulations if they fail to follow the rules correctly they …

Read more

Health &Amp; Safety Statistics

Don’t become a Health & Safety statistic

By Neil Munro | 8th December 2020

We are very proud to have our main headquarters in Northampton. It is a great place for our staff to live and work and we are proud to be a part of the vibrant business community here. So, we were saddened to read the latest statistics for the numbers of injuries that took place at …

Read more

Don’t Become Complacent About Covid-19

Don’t become complacent about Covid-19

By Ian Stone | 1st December 2020

It is amazing how quickly we can adapt to change. A year ago, you would never expect to be walking around your local supermarket surrounded by people wearing face masks but how many of us now even give it a second’s thought? The problem is many of us have become so used to the new …

Read more

Health And Safety Priority

Stark reminder why Health & Safety needs to be a priority

By Neil Munro | 24th November 2020

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recently released the details of a very sad case which was a stark reminder as to why Health & Safety should always be a priority in the workplace. Solar panel company Blue Sun Energy Limited was sentenced in November for safety breaches after a self-employed labourer fell through a …

Read more

Construction Health And Safety Inspections

Have you thought about Health & Safety recently?

By Ian Stone | 10th November 2020

Health & Safety can feel like a minefield for many businesses. Bosses fear visits from the dreaded Health & Safety inspector and worry about becoming embroiled in endless reams of red tape. Firms regularly become frustrated with ever-increasing workloads landing on their desks because the Government keeps on adding more and more Health & Safety …

Read more

Pre-Construction Advice

Pre-construction advice

By Neil Munro | 27th October 2020

Pre-construction information is health and safety information that is already in the client’s possession or which is reasonably obtainable. It provides a basis for the preparation of the Construction Phase Plan (CPP).  It must be relevant, have an appropriate level of detail and be proportionate given the nature of risks to health or safety involved …

Read more

Construction Phase Plan

What is a Construction Phase Plan?

By Ian Stone | 20th October 2020

In this blog we are going to look at what is a Construction Phase Plan. The Construction Phase Plan must set out the arrangements for securing health and safety, including site rules, whilst construction work is taking place. It must take into account the information the project’s Principal Designer holds such as the pre-construction information …

Read more

Cdm For Self Builders

How does Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 apply to Self Builders?

By Neil Munro | 13th October 2020

Everyone in the construction industry is obliged to comply with the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015). These regulations set out what people involved in construction work need to do to protect themselves – and anyone the work affects – from harm. These regulations also apply to self builders although the degree to …

Read more

Principal Designer

What should construction clients look for in a Principal Designer?

By Ian Stone | 6th October 2020

A Principal Designer is appointed by the client to have control over a project’s Pre-Construction Phase. The Principal Designer can be an organisation – or on a smaller project an individual – that has: A technical knowledge of the construction industry which is relevant to the project The understanding and skills to manage and coordinate …

Read more