Legionnaires’ Disease – what is it and what do I need to do?

Legionnaires’ Disease, is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and is something employers and landlords are legally required to guard against. Legionnaires’ disease can affect anyone but is more likely to infect those with weaker immune systems, namely the young, elderly and those suffering ill health.

Most infected people will just have flu like symptom and recover fully, but for those with weaker immune systems legionnaires’ disease can be deadly. In a business place, or rented accommodation, the statutory duty holder for the premises is also responsible for making sure the building is risk assessed, and regular checks are carried out to ensure the conditions in which legionella bacteria could grow are avoided.

This requirement is stipulated by law, with prosecutions for companies who fail to comply, which can result in severe fines or in the worst cases involuntary manslaughter.

However, by taking the correct preventative actions, which can include appointing a specialist firm to carry out a legionella risk assessment, and regular checks of the building water system, the risk from legionella bacteria can be reduced and managed.

Required by Law

Where the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 applies, there is a requirement to assess the risks from legionella bacteria which could result in the workplace.  Further documents and information resources are available on the HSE website.

The HSE Approved Code of Practice: Legionnaires’ disease: The control of Legionella Bacteria in water systems (L8) commonly known as the ACoP L8, sets out how to comply with the law.

The COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002) states that all businesses require a legionella risk assessment, and that they have an effective control system in place.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) also apply to the control of Legionnaires’ disease, and focus on the management of the control measures and duty holder responsibilities.

If you’re an employer, or in control of a building, xenical no prescription which includes landlords, then you could consider employing a specialist to asses the risks associated with legionnaires’ disease and legionella bacteria. They must be knowledgeable and experienced, and able to understand the dangers of legionnaires’ disease and is trained and competent to carry out the risk assessment.

Essentially, they need to know how to identify where a risk is likely, and how to reduce the risk identified. Even if there hasn’t been an outbreak, you can still be prosecuted if the HSE guidance has not been complied with.

What exactly is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia.  Legionnaires’ Disease is contracted by inhaling droplets (aerosol) of water containing the bacteria in manmade water systems. It can be potentially dangerous, typically proving fatal in one in ten sufferers, but it generally effects those with weaker immune systems, people with ill health, children and older people.

Legionella bacteria can be widely found in the natural environment; however, cases of Legionnaires’ disease have only been recorded from exposure to the bacteria in the built environment, where the conditions were favourable for the bacteria to grow and multiply to sufficient numbers for an outbreak to occur.

Namely; the water temperature needs to be between 20 to 45 degrees c, an aerosol needs to be created e.g. shower / cooling tower and suitable nutrients are provided to support bacterial growth.

What can you do to manage the risk?

The HSE advise employers that if they wish to appoint a competent specialist provider to assist them in assessing the risk from legionella bacteria and putting in place suitable control measures, then they must ensure the contractor is competent and will adhere to the current guidance.

There is a code of conduct for service providers of legionella control services which you can check to ensure the service you receive is of the required standard.  Code of conduct for service providers.