Legionella Risks in the Workplace

Legionella-WaterEvery duty holder and employer must be aware of the risks of Legionella in the workplace.

It is the responsibility or duty holders and employers to make sure that Legionella is controlled and cannot spread and that risk assessments are carried out to define potential sources for Legionella growth. There is one thing that you should always remember when dealing with Legionella bacteria:

Any water system, given the right environmental conditions, can be a breeding ground for Legionella bacteria.

The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) states that there is a foreseeable risk of Legionella growth and risk if a water system:

  • Stores and re-circulates water
  • Has temperature in all or some parts of the system between 20–45 °C
  • Has sources of nutrients for the bacteria to consume such as rust, sludge, scale and organic matter
  • The conditions are likely to encourage the bacteria to multiply
  • It is possible for water droplets to be produced and, if so, they can be dispersed over a wide area (eg showers and aerosols from cooling towers)
  • It is likely that employees, residents or visitors are more susceptible due to infection due to age, illness, a weakened immune system and whether they could be exposed to contaminated water droplets
As we said previously, any water system can be a source of legionella infection. Such examples include water systems, cooling towers, evaporative condensers, hot and cold water systems, spa pools, humidifiers, air washers, emergency showers and even indoor ornamental fountains.

Responsibility for Legionella Safety

Anyone who is responsible for others – for example a landlord or duty holder in an industrial area – is responsible under general health and safety law for evaluating and taking suitable steps to prevent or control the risk of exposure to legionella within a water system.

Carrying out a risk assessment is therefore a direct responsibility and will help to develop a safety programme for preventing legionella’s spread. The person carrying out this risk assessment should be competent to do and adequately trained or it should be carried out by a qualified member of staff or an outside organisation specialising in risk assessment.

Neglecting this process is both against health and safety laws and also runs a significant risk of your employees or those under your care contracting a disease that can cause pneumonia, lung failure and even death if not treated quickly.

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