Understanding and Managing Legionella Risks: A Comprehensive Guide

Understanding and Managing Legionella Risks


Ensuring the safety and well-being of individuals in your workplace or premises is a top priority. One of the health risks that you must be aware of and actively manage is the presence of legionella bacteria in water systems. This blog post will guide you through your responsibilities and actions to control and mitigate the risk of legionella, in compliance with health and safety regulations.

Legal Framework

Your duties in managing the risk of legionella are governed by several key pieces of legislation:

Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA): This act extends to health risks posed by legionella bacteria arising from work activities.

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR): These regulations provide a broad framework for controlling health and safety at work.

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH): COSHH offers a structured approach to assess, prevent, or control the risk from bacteria like Legionella and implement suitable precautions.

Approved Code of Practice: Legionnaires’ Disease: The Control of Legionella Bacteria in Water Systems (L8): L8 provides practical guidance on managing and controlling risks associated with Legionella in your water systems.

Your Responsibilities

Whether you’re an employer or someone in control of premises (including landlords), you must take the following steps to manage legionella risks effectively:

1. Identify and Assess Sources of Risk

Conduct a thorough risk assessment.
Ensure you or the responsible person understands the water systems, associated equipment, and potential risk sources.
Identify factors like water temperature, storage, sources of nutrients, conditions favoring bacterial growth, and the potential for water droplet dispersion.
Consider the susceptibility of individuals (employees, residents, visitors) to infection.

2. Managing the Risk

Appoint a competent person (often known as the responsible person) to oversee legionella risk management.
Ensure this person possesses the necessary authority, competence, skills, knowledge, and experience.
Clearly define responsibilities if multiple individuals are involved in risk management.
When employing contractors for water treatment or related work, ensure they meet the required standards.

3. Preventing or Controlling the Risk

Evaluate if you can prevent the risk by modifying your water system, such as switching from wet cooling towers to dry air-cooled systems.
Design, maintain, and operate water services to prevent or adequately control legionella growth.
Develop a written control scheme outlining responsibilities, system operation, control methods, checks, and maintenance procedures.
Ensure proper control of water spray release, avoid favorable conditions for legionella growth, and keep the system clean.
Use materials approved for use in water systems to prevent legionella growth.
Implement water treatment measures and monitor their effectiveness.

4. Keeping Records

If you have five or more employees, record significant findings, individuals at risk, and steps taken to control risks.
While not mandatory for fewer than five employees, maintaining written records is advisable.
Records should include details of responsible persons, risk assessment findings, control schemes, system status, monitoring results, and dates.
Retain records for at least the current period plus two years (or five years for specific records).

5. Other Duties

Notify your local authority if you have cooling towers or evaporative condensers on site and inform them if these devices are no longer in use.
Under RIDDOR regulations, report cases of legionellosis in employees who have worked on potentially contaminated cooling towers or water systems.

Understanding and Managing Legionella Risks

Managing legionella risks is essential for maintaining a safe environment in your workplace or premises. By understanding your legal obligations and following the steps outlined in this guide, you can effectively control and mitigate the risk of legionella, ensuring the health and safety of everyone involved. Remember, continuous vigilance and regular reviews are key to a successful legionella risk management program.

For more detailed guidance and specific risk systems, consult relevant technical resources and regulations in your area.

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