Legionella: Focus on the bacteria dominating the headlines this summer

Legionella can prove to be a huge problem for businesses

TWO hospitals in Scotland have been placed on high alert following the discovery of legionella bacteria in the water supply serving both hospitals.

Traces of the bacteria, which can cause Legionnaires’ Disease in vulnerable people, was found during routine checks in the radiotherapy unit at the Western General in Edinburgh and in the supply at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley.

Days later, the bacteria was discovered in the water supply supplying Bibby Stockholm, the barge currently housing asylum seekers in Dorset.

Understanding the threat posed by legionella bacteria

All of these cases highlight the importance of regular legionella testing, particularly in places where staff, patients and customers could be at greater risk, including hospitals and care homes where the conditions provide the perfect place for bacteria to thrive. It can also be found in air conditioning units, taps and showers which are not regularly used and even water fountains and water features, which be dormant for large parts of the year.

While it occurs naturally in many rivers and streams, legionella bacteria can become a big problem if it gets into pipework and water supplies where it can multiply quickly.

If the bacteria is inhaled through water droplets in the air, it can go on to cause Legionnaires’ Disease, a potentially fatal illness which largely affects the most vulnerable in society, including the elderly, those with conditions including cancer, and people whose immune systems are compromised.

According to the NHS, symptoms include a cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort, a high temperature and other flu-like symptoms. Treatment in hospital may include antibiotics and oxygen therapy and it can take many weeks to fully recover.

Taking the correct steps to protect those around you

As with all things related to health and safety, prevention is always better than cure and at Acorn Safety Services we are perfectly placed to offer any advice, and carry out any remediation you may need.

If you are concerned about the risks around legionella bacteria, your first step should be to carry out a full legionella risk assessment to check for the presence of the bacteria in your water supply.

We recommend water testing is carried out every year, but it should be carried out immediately if any of the following apply:

  • A control regime’s limits, such as temperature or disinfectant concentration, are not always consistently attained;
  • You operate in a high-risk area including  healthcare premises and care homes;
  • A water system is suspected or identified in a case of an outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease;
  • A water system is being treated with biocides and hot water is stored or distributed at lower temperatures.

Carried out by a fully-trained consultant, a legionella risk assessment will check all the important areas, including pipework, taps and tanks, and samples will be taken away for analysis.

Once the results are known, we will provide you with a complete report and information about the steps you should take if necessary.

Treatment for legionella bacteria can include thermal disinfection, which boosts the temperature of your water supply to kill the bacteria, or chemical disinfection, which uses chlorine to flush out all areas of the system safety and effectively.

A qualified project manager will guide you throughout the process and all of your documents will be stored safety within our client portal to ensure you have access to them whenever you need them.

To learn more about the comprehensive legionella services we offer, visit our dedicated website at https://legionellarisks.co.uk or give our Legionella and Fire Manager, Adam Midson, a call today on 01604 930380. We’re always happy to help.

For all your health and safety needs visit https://acornhealthandsafety.co.uk/ today or contact us at info@acornhealthandsafety.co.uk or on 01604 930380.


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