The Importance Of Legionella Training Systems

Every commercial and industrial business has to invest in resources to cover environmental, health and safety management. This might seem to some people like we are stating the obvious, but there are still plenty of examples out there of organisations taking shortcuts, gambling on a lack of full compliance or plainly and simply being ignorant of their responsibilities and legionella manament is one of those responsibilities.

At Water Hygiene Services we have always enforced the need to have robust systems in place, we offer a range of training services which educate responsible people on their duties with various systems found in the workplace, and a recent example in the media has highlighted the implications of having flaws in a management system.

In October last year, a court heard that a care home manager was “too busy” to undertake legionella training, and a systems failure led to an 86-year-old care home resident dying of Legionnaires’ Disease. This is a cut and dried case where the care home manager, Miss Sue Green, has admitted 100% responsibility and the lack of procedure in the care home directly led to the gentleman’s death. Such scenarios are not always so clear cut, but this is an excellent example of what can happen if priorities are skewed or management is lacking.

The legionella training that Water Hygiene Services offer ensures that people understand what legionella is, where it can be found, what control measures you can implement to prevent it forming and breeding and what key roles and responsibilities you need to identify within your organisation. Having competent people to understand the ACOP L8 Compliance legislation and how to carry out a full risk assessment are also pivotal elements of having a working system. But this is not enough if you then fail to complete the circle by ignoring key processes, not carrying out remedial work identified and not following up on documented non-compliances.

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In the case of the BUPA-run Hutton Village Care Home in Brentwood, Essex, annual risk assessments carried out in 2014 and 2015 both identified that Sue Green was required to complete some legionella training. So a system of sorts was in place, but poor management allowed it to lapse. Miss Green claimed that she was busy managing a refurbishment project at the care home and the disruption that caused meant she couldn’t attend the training. She confessed in court that she had only undergone general BUPA training on health and safety and “didn’t understand the specifics of legionella risk management”, something a simple training course could have solved.

As a result, it took less than three months’ residence in the care home for Mr Kenneth Ibbotson to contract bronchopneumonia, an inflammation of the lungs. The legionella bacteria was discovered by the Health & Safety Executive in Mr Ibbotson’s en-suite bathroom, as a result of water temperature checks not being kept up-to-date. Miss Green had employed a temporary maintenance manager who “did as many checks as he could in the time he had available”. Clearly there can be no confidence that all the risks were being managed, and indeed there may be other issues elsewhere within this care home, yet to be discovered. This clearly highlights how complacency and half measures can lead to avoidable problems, and how robust systems, where it is easy to identify the correct solutions, would have prevented this unfortunate death.

Miss Green has subsequently undertaken her legionella training, a classic example of reactive management rather than preventive. At Water Hygiene Services we do see similar examples of inconsistencies and poor management of simple systems, but thankfully very rarely with these kind of consequences. Contact us today and we can help you design a robust management system and also ensure you are fully aware of all the risks in your workplace and how to manage them.