Understanding the role of Duty Holder in Legionella Control

Under Occupational Health and Safety legislation (Chapter 3), all businesses in Ireland have a legal responsibility to aware of the risks present in their water systems and take appropriate actions to manage them.

Legislative requirements for the control of legionellosis put the responsibility for compliance clearly with those in control of premises and health & safety requirements for others.

Approved Code of Practice L8 (ACoP L8) includes clear guidelines for duty holders to ensure that they deal with both the risk and the control of legionella in the right way.

Who is the Statutory Duty Holder?

Anyone who is an owner or operator of premises that uses water can be termed as a duty holder.

The duty holder can be a ‘natural person’ who may take on the duty holder role by virtue of his or her job role, or as identified as such in the documentation required by legislation.

The duty holder is the person “who has, to any extent, control of premises”, who may be an identified person with that specific responsibility within an organisation or a landlord.

The duty holder maybe:

a) The employer (where the risk is to their employees)

b) A self-employed person (where there is a risk to themselves or others)

c) The person who is in control of the premises or systems (e.g., where a building is let to tenants but the landlord retains responsibility for its maintenance).

What are the responsibilities of the Duty Holder?

The duty holder must ensure that water systems presenting a risk of exposure to legionella bacteria on the premises are identified, that assessment of the risk is made, and that any necessary precautionary measures are taken.

The duty holder is required to have access to competent help to perform these duties

The specific responsibilities of the duty holders are:

  1. Identify and assess sources of risk
  2. Prepare a written scheme for preventing or controlling the risk
  3. Implement, manage and monitor the scheme to control legionella
  4. Keep records of all precautions taken, including risk assessments, their findings and the results of all inspections and tests
  5. Appoint a competent person with sufficient authority and knowledge of any water installation to help take measures needed to comply with the law.

The duty holder in buildings and facilities is tasked with ensuring that everything on site is as it should be and that everyone on site knows exactly what they are doing. This is a huge responsibility that should never be taken lightly.

Controlling and preventing the outbreak of legionella in buildings is just a part of the duty holder’s responsibilities. It is critical to understand and identify risk factors that could lead to future outbreaks.

If the facility in question might be susceptible to bacterial contamination, the duty holder is bound by law to carry a legionella risk assessment and have a control plan in place.

The duty holder must ensure that the Risk Assessment is reviewed. This must be done if changes are made to the systems or to the building in which they are housed, to the use of the systems, or to the management of the systems.

The risk assessment must also be reviewed if new information about risks or control measures comes to light if monitoring reveals that the control measures are no longer effective, or if there is a case of Legionnaires’ disease associated with the systems.

Does the Duty Holder be experienced in managing legionella risk?

It is the responsibility of the statutory duty holder to ensure a legionella risk assessment is undertaken, and, that there is a suitable legionella control regime in place.

The duty holder may or may not be experienced in managing legionella risks but should have a good understanding of the risks so as they can perform their responsibilities efficiently.

Duty holders are tasked with appointing a competent “Responsible Person” capable of controlling the outbreak and managing a written scheme of work compliant with ACOP L8 & HSPC’s guidelines, which is to be then undertaken and supervised by the duty holder.

There is no legal requirement for duty holders to undergo training. However, in reality, duty holders and other people responsible for legionella control must be able to demonstrate that they have an appropriate level of knowledge, and be competent to do the job required.

It is nearly impossible to be able to show this without having proper training. The need for regular refresher training is also mentioned in the ACoP L8 guidance document.

Duty Holders vs Responsible Person – What’s the Difference?

It is critical not to get the two roles confused.

Anyone in control of a premise that uses water systems is automatically considered the statutory duty holder. The responsibility of controlling and preventing legionella in the facility lies with duty holder and under general health and safety law, they are required to prevent and control the bacteria.

If the duty holder does not feel capable enough to control legionella, they can appoint a responsible person on their behalf. This can be one or more workers within their organisation, or someone external such as a water treatment specialist.

The competent or responsible person takes the managerial responsibility and provides supervision for the implementation of the written scheme and the precautionary measures that are revealed in the risk assessment.

The responsible person should have sufficient authority, competence, and knowledge of the installation to ensure that all operational procedures are carried out in a timely and effective manner.

In larger organisations, the responsible person is likely to be a senior safety or engineering manager, an estates or facilities manager or some other senior manager with responsibility for the maintenance of the premises. The duty holder is usually more senior and holds a greater degree of responsibility for all issues within a business.

Landlords as Duty Holders

People operating as private landlords and lettings agents are also defined as duty holders.

Landlords have a duty to make sure anyone renting and staying in their property is safe from any potential hazards that could pose a threat to their health and safety.

This applies to all landlords who rent out properties to individuals, and also to those who rent out rooms in hostels and manage housing associations.

Since, simple domestic properties tend to pose a lower risk from legionella, especially if the water systems are managed correctly, landlords do not have to perform a detailed risk assessment.

However, a basic legionella risk assessment should always be completed that identifies the primary risks and how they should be managed, and you should keep a copy of this risk assessment for your records.

The one thing that you shouldn’t do is nothing, as non-compliance could result in prosecution and hefty fines.

Further Action

Keeping facilities open and useable, while keeping the public and building staff safe, is the sole responsibility of the duty holder. Failure to fulfil this responsibility can have dire consequences for public health, facility owners and their employees, not to mention the duty holder themselves.

If you have been designated as a duty holder for the control of legionella in your workplace, then there’s no need to panic.

Water Treatment Ireland Ltd delivers a range of legionella control solutions to mitigate the risk of a legionella outbreak. Our team of experts support duty holders to keep their facilities safe and comply with relevant health and safety legislation.

If you need more information on this subject or any other related topics, feel free to speak to one of our experts.