Health and Safety Executive provides guidance to understand the legal responsibilities, explanation of specific requirements in the law, technical information and references to further sources of information to help comply with legal duties.
Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPs) describe preferred or recommended methods that that form an essential framework to support the promotion of regulatory compliance.
Businesses following this advice will be doing enough to comply with the law in respect of those specific matters on which the Code gives advice.
This article will specifically focus on the legal status of the ACOP L8 and HSG274 which deal with the control of Legionella bacteria and Legionnaires’ disease.
Failure to comply with these guidelines could pose a risk to people’s health; should this occur a lack of compliance will be used as evidence of negligence.
What is ACOP L8?
Approved Code of Practice L8 (Fourth edition, 2013) offers practical advice and specific guidance for those with responsibility for the control of legionella in water systems.
ACOP L8 is aimed at duty holders, including employers, those in control of premises and those with health and safety responsibilities for others, to help them comply with their legal duties in relation to legionella.
These duties include identifying and assessing sources of risk, preparing a programme to prevent or control those risks; implementing, managing and monitoring the precautions, keeping records of those precautions and appointing a competent manager (the responsible person) to be responsible for others.
The primary focus of ACOP L8 covers the following important areas:
- Legionella risk assessment
- The role of the appointed competent person, known as the “responsible person”
- The control scheme for legionella risks
- Reviewing control measures and record keeping
- The duties and responsibilities of those involved in the supply of water systems
In November 2013 the HSE released the Fourth Edition of the Approved Code of Practice L8. The fourth edition simplified the text and removed the technical guidance, which is now published separately as HSG274. The ACOP L8 can be downloaded for free from HSE’s website.
The ACOP L8 is supported by the Health & Safety Executive’s HSG274, “Legionnaires’ disease: Technical guidance” document which provides additional guidance covering the operation and management of the following risk systems, evaporative cooling systems, hot and cold water systems, and other risk systems.
HSG274 is split into three distinct parts as follows:
Part 1: The control of legionella bacteria in evaporative cooling systems
Part 2: The control of legionella bacteria in hot and cold water systems
Part 3: The control of legionella bacteria in other risk systems
The guidance gives practical advice on the legal requirements of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 concerning the risk from exposure to legionella and guidance on compliance with the relevant parts of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
The technical guidance was separated from the ACOP L8 and split into three parts to avoid confusion and to prevent measures being misapplied as some providers who were not technically competent were, for example, applying measures designed for cooling systems to hot & cold-water systems and vice versa
The guidance given in HSG274 is not compulsory unless specifically stated, and you are free to take other action.
However, if you do follow the guidance you will normally be doing enough to comply with the law. Health and safety inspectors may refer to this guidance when they inspect your premises.
Legal Importance of ACOP L8
Legionnaires’ disease is an uncommon, severe type of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria, often requiring intensive care treatment in hospital. Legionellosis can be fatal and death can occur in approximately 1 in 10 of otherwise healthy people.
The bacteria can become a health concern when they grow and spread in human-made building water systems like cooling towers, hot water tanks, certain plumbing systems especially showers, spa pools, decorative fountains, sprinklers and nebulisers.
It’s important to understand that the ACOP L8 has a special legal status which means that if you’re prosecuted for a breach of health and safety law, and it’s shown that you didn’t follow the ACOP, you’ll need to prove that you have complied with the law in some other way, or you could be in trouble.
The ACOP L8 document has two main types of information – the code itself, which has legal status and is in bold type and additional guidance which is in normal type. Any relevant regulations are displayed at the start of a section, displayed in italic. In addition, there are colour-coded panels in the left margin, allowing you to see clearly which parts have legal status – the ACOP – and which parts are just helpful guidance.
Whilst it is not compulsory, and you could take other action to ensure you have legionella under control, following the guidance in the code will normally be enough to comply with the law.
Is Your Business Compliant with ACOP L8 & HSG274?
It is a moral and ethical responsibility of businesses, organizations, and landlords to provide safe water and take all precautions to prevent staff, visitors, tenants, and the general public from contacting potentially fatal disease.
Failure to manage the risks associated with legionella is a breach of health and safety law.
Our teams of water safety specialists support those responsible for the control of waterborne pathogens including Legionella bacteria, helping them to protect people and meet their health and safety obligations in this specialist area.
Water Treatment Ireland Ltd delivers a range of legionella management solutions to mitigate the risk of a legionella outbreak.
Talk to our team of consultants for more information.