With around 500 people affected in England each year – and 86 cases reported in January and February of 2018 alone – Legionnaires’ Disease is a lot more prevalent than most believe. Over the past two decades, the number of reported cases has increased by 450% and is fatal in one in one hundred cases. This means that educating yourself on this disease and monitoring your water systems is not only a legal requirement, but a moral imperative too.
What is Legionnaires’ Disease?
Legionnaires’ bacteria propagates in water and the disease develops when small water droplets carrying the bacteria are breathed in. It causes a severe form of pneumonia in patients which can be fatal for people with compromised immune systems, the elderly, and heavy smokers and drinkers and can have life-threatening complications such as septic shock and organ failure. Legionnaires’ Disease is a notifiable disease, meaning health professionals are required to inform local health protection teams of suspected cases and facilities around the country are closed at the perceived threat of a Legionella outbreak.
Bacteria colonies flourish in manmade cold and warm water systems. This makes cooling towers, air-conditioners, and water warmers particularly hazardous breeding grounds for the disease, especially in larger building complexes. The risk temperature range is between 20 and 45°C and hot water systems should be set to 60°C so as to deliver water from the taps at 55°C. Outbreaks tend to happen more in the warmer summer months between July and September.
Compliance around water systems and Legionnaires’ Disease is regulated by the Approved Code of Practice L8 2013. According to this, it is a legal requirement to perform constant checks of water temperatures, with all monitoring records being kept for five years. Staff working with water systems need to have their suitability assessed and to be adequately informed and trained to ensure their tasks are competently performed. The responsibility of testing and monitoring lies with owners and landlords. Even where they’re using third party services, they are tasked with minimising the risk of Legionella in their water systems. Your compliance will involve notifications in terms of water towers, risk assessments, personnel appointment around your water systems, and prevention and control measures around your water system responsibility.
The risk of non-compliance
Failure to control a Legionella risk can be prosecuted across a range of health and safety regulations and the fine varies according to the regulations and the prosecuting court. Crown courts can impose unlimited fines and up to two years’ imprisonment, while magistrates’ courts can impose up to £20 000 fines and Scottish Sheriff Courts can impose up to 12 months’ imprisonment. Prosecution under a health and safety Act can also result in company directors being disqualified. Where death occurs through failure to control a risk, offenders can face unlimited fines in the region of millions of pounds, charges of corporate manslaughter, and imprisonment.
What can Voltix Services do for you?
Our specialists are able to offer comprehensive advice and perform risk assessments and reviews, offering water sampling, analysis, and consultancy services for your facility. Automated reporting, monitoring, and alerting means you are assured of compliance and are able to control any Legionella risks. Not only does this protect you from the heavy liability attached to a breach of health and safety regulations, but it frees up personnel and resources which would be used to perform this task within your organisation. Contact Voltix Services today to discuss your requirements and for invaluable peace of mind attached to your compliance.