What is the role of the Responsible Person in Legionella Control?

Legionella bacteria should always be kept under control and at safe levels, thereby minimising the risk that an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease could occur.

Under Occupational Health and Safety legislation (Chapter 3), all businesses in Ireland have a legal responsibility to ensure their water supplies are safe for use and don’t put their staff, visitors and other people at risk.

HPSC’s Guidelines for Control of Legionellosis in Ireland recommend businesses to carry out a risk assessment in relation to legionella prevention. Under the legionella management plan, a responsible person must be appointed to assess the risks and putting into place procedures and systems for control of legionella bacteria.

Who is the Legionella Responsible Person?

Paragraph 48 of the ACOP L8 states that where the risk assessment shows that there is a reasonably foreseeable risk associated with legionella bacteria, the duty holder should appoint “a competent person or persons to help undertake the measures needed to comply with the requirements in COSHH”.

This appointment is known as the “responsible person” and the appointee should “take day-to-day responsibility for controlling any identified risk from legionella bacteria” and should have “sufficient authority, competence and knowledge of the installation” to ensure operational procedures are undertaken.

They are to ensure compliance and most importantly, the safety of the users from harmful bacteria such as legionella.

The legionella Responsible Person is described as someone with day-to-day responsibility for managing and controlling all identified risks from legionella bacteria to protect the health and safety of others.

Who can be appointed as the Responsible Person?


Anyone in the organisation can be appointed as the responsible person as long as they have sufficient authority, competence, skills and knowledge about the business and the potential risks from Legionella bacteria.

They must be able to make sure that the controls and processes they put into place are suitable to manage the risks effectively and that they are carried out in a safe, timely, and technically competent manner.

The competence required of the responsible person will depend upon the risks they have to manage, i.e. the nature, size, age, use and complexity of the water systems for which they are responsible.

For locations with medium- to high-risk water systems the responsible person should have attended specific training courses given by a qualified training provider on the management and control of risks of exposure to Legionella bacteria.

The HSE requires that anyone who takes on the role of responsible person should be properly trained and take regular legionella refresher courses to keep their knowledge current.

The responsible person must also have a clear understanding of their duties and the overall health and safety management structure and policy in the organisation.

They also need to have budgetary control and a good understanding of what water systems are present in the building and how they work.

Usually, the responsible person is one of the senior management team.

The ACOP states that where the dutyholder does not employ anyone with the necessary competence, they may need to appoint people from outside the organisation.

In such circumstances, the dutyholder should take all reasonable steps to ensure the competence of the people carrying out work who are not under their direct control and that responsibilities and lines of communication are properly established and clearly laid down.

What are the responsibilities of the Responsible Person?

The responsible person plays a strategic role and has many management responsibilities for their organisation, such as minimising water safety risks associated with their buildings.

To ensure the operational risks are being managed properly, the responsible person needs to have adequate input providing oversight of the performance of the water systems. To facilitate this, the responsible person can appoint a deputy responsible person or authorised persons (dependent upon the size and structure of the organisation).

Roles & responsibilities of the Responsible Person

  • The responsible person must fully understand and comply with the HPSC Guidelines for Control of Legionellosis in Ireland, Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (S.I. No. 10 of 2005) (Ireland), UK HSE ACOP L8, HSG274, Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA) and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH)
  • Have a though understanding of the sources of risk to water systems
  • Communicate at all times with the “Duty Holder” regarding all aspects of the legionella risk management programme
  • Recruit and ensure all persons involved with the control of legionella within the company are appropriately trained and competent
  • Ensure staff roles, responsibilities and lines of communication are properly defined, clearly documented in writing and understood by all involved
  • Ensure management arrangements and communication procedures are audited regularly to ensure that they are effective
  • Ensure a risk assessment of the building is carried out by a competent person and implement the control measures and maintenance regime detailed within the Risk Assessment report
  • Ensure that maintenance records are kept and recommended actions carried out
  • Monitor and regularly review the effectiveness of the maintenance regime and control measures
  • The responsible person needs to have adequate knowledge of water systems to be able to make decisions. The Duty Holder and the Responsible Person can seek assistance for further training if they do not think that they have the required knowledge and experience needed to carry out their roles.

Is there a difference between the Duty Holder and The Responsible Person?

Mixing up the Duty Holder and the Responsible Person or using their titles interchangeably is a common mistake made by many organisations.

Anyone in control of a premise, i.e. an employer or landlord that uses a man-made water system is automatically considered the statutory duty holder. The overall responsibility for the building and water systems lies with the duty holder and is accountable for the safety of employees and users by law.

On the other hand, the responsible person is appointed by the duty holder and must be accountable to the duty holder for the upkeep of the water system on a day to day basis. They report directly to the duty holder but must have sufficient authority, competence and knowledge, in addition to holding a significant position in the organisation to be able to effectively fulfil their role and responsibilities. They can also be referred to as the “Competent Person”.

It is possible that a duty holder might also have all the required knowledge and experience to be the responsible person and fulfil a dual role. However, this is not necessary.

Further Action

The responsible person is the key component in any company’s legionella risk management and control process.

Everyone who is designated as a responsible person should be competent to do their job properly. They must have a good understanding of the risks posed by Legionella bacteria in water systems and what needs to be done to mitigate those risks in their workplace.

Water Treatment Ireland Ltd delivers a range of legionella management solutions for the control of Legionella bacteria including legionella risk assessment, training and water testing for the control of legionella and other waterborne pathogens in the workplace.

We work closely with organisations of all shapes and sizes, across all sectors throughout Ireland helping them manage legionella risks and comply with legal obligations with confidence.

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