COVID-19 has transformed the lives of everyone. As restrictions are relaxed and businesses look forward to reopening after lockdown, other health risks lurk out of sight close by. HSE has issued advice concerning an increased risk of legionella outbreak arising due to lockdown.
Legionella bacteria, which can cause Legionnaires’ disease, are common in warm, freshwater environments like lakes and streams. They can also grow and thrive in building systems, particularly hot water systems.
When left to grow, legionella bacteria can quickly multiply to high enough numbers to create a hazard for those using the contaminated water. Underused or stagnant water systems during lockdown have provided ideal conditions for legionella growth.
Legionnaires’ disease is a lung infection, caused by inhaling small droplets of water, suspended in the air, which contain legionella bacteria.
People can be exposed to Legionella when they inhale aerosols or mists from household plumbing, cooling towers, showers, decorative pools and waterfalls, as well as hot tubs contaminated with the bacteria.
In most cases, hospitalisation is required to treat the symptoms. Although legionnaires’ disease can affect anyone, those aged over 50 and those suffering from medical conditions are at greater risk of falling ill.
In addition to office buildings, hotels, gyms and schools could all be at risk.
Your Responsibility to Manage Legionella Risk
As part of your return preparations, you should be mindful of any issues that could arise or pose a risk to returning employees or customers. You should have measures in place to maintain water systems.
The necessary steps may vary for each business as each of them have unique water systems and the size of the buildings.
This includes a suitable and sufficient legionella risk assessment and where the risks within the water system have changed, the risk assessment must be reviewed and revised.
To manage the risk of legionella, some preventive measures can be taken which include:
- Flush hot and cold water outlets weekly to prevent water stagnation. In cases, where this cannot be carried out, ensure water systems are cleaned and disinfected before building reopens for staff & customers.
- For cooling towers and evaporative condensers, before the shutdown, operations should have already been reviewed to ensure plans are in place for carrying out essential checks and monitoring, as well as maintaining and dosing chemical supplies appropriately.
- If cooling towers and evaporative condensers are likely to be out of operation for a month, isolate fans, but circulate biocidally-treated water around the system for at least an hour each week.
- In instances where cooling towers and evaporative condensers will cease operation for a long period (more than a month), drain down the systems and clean and disinfect them. Before commencing the operation, clean and disinfect them again.
If you are changing any control measures you need to be aware of any further risks these could pose and detail them on your risk assessments.
Get in Touch
Failure to manage the risks associated with legionella is a breach of health and safety law. Let our experts reopen your business safely and mitigate the risk of a legionella outbreak.
If you would like to speak to an expert, feel free to call 093 60705 or contact us here.