Responsibilities of the Duty Holder

Legionnaires’ disease

The most common places where legionella can be found include purpose-built water systems, cooling towers, evaporative condensers, hot and cold water systems and spa pools. There are also a number of other systems that may pose a risk to exposure to legionella, eg humidifiers, air washers, emergency showers, indoor ornamental fountains etc.

Your duties?

Under general health and safety law, as an employer or person in control of a premises (eg a landlord), you have health and safety duties and need to take suitable precautions to prevent or control the risk of exposure to legionella. Details of the specific law that applies can be found in part 1 of Legionnaires’ disease: The control of legionella bacteria in water systems.

Carrying out a risk assessment is your responsibility and will help you to establish any potential risks and implement measures to either eliminate or control risks.

How do I prevent or control the risk?

You should consider whether you can prevent the risk of legionella in the first place by considering the type of water system you need, eg consider whether it is possible to replace a wet cooling tower with a dry air-cooled system. The key point is to design, maintain and operate your water services under conditions that prevent or adequately control the growth of legionella bacteria.

You should, as appropriate:

  • Ensure that the release of water spray is properly controlled
  • Avoid water temperatures and conditions that favour the growth of legionella and other micro-organisms
  • Ensure water does not stagnate anywhere in the system by keeping pipe lengths as short as possible or by removing redundant pipework
  • Avoid materials that encourage the growth of legionella.
  • The Water Fittings and Materials Directory references fittings, materials, and appliances approved for use on the UK Water Supply System by the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme
  • Keep the system and the water in it clean
  • Treat water to either kill legionella (and other microorganisms) or limit their ability to grow.

Appropriate controls measures

  • Developing a written schematic
  • Appoint a responsible person in writing for carrying out the assessment and managing its implementation
  • Carry out safe and correct operation of your system
  • The control methods and other precautions you will be using
  • The checks (micro biological and temperature) will be carried out to ensure risks are being managed and conducted on a regular basis/checks are done on a regular basis.

What records do I need to keep?

If you have five or more employees, you have to record any significant findings, including any groups of employees identified by it as being particularly at risk and the steps taken to prevent or control risks. If you have less than five employees, you do not need to write anything down, although it is useful to keep a written record of what you have done.

Records should include details about:

  • The person or people responsible for conducting the risk assessment, managing, and implementing the written scheme
  • Any significant findings of the risk assessment
  • The written control scheme and its implementation
  • The results of any inspection, test (eg. Water sample)or check (Temperature) carried out, and the dates.

This should include details about the state of operation of the system, ie in use/not in use.These records should be retained throughout the period for which they remain current and for at least two years after that period. Records kept in accordance with the last bullet point above should be retained for at least five years.

Do I have any other duties?

Under the Notification of Cooling Towers and Evaporative Condensers Regulations 1992 you must notify your local authority, in writing, if you have a cooling tower or evaporative condenser on site and include details about where it is located. You must also tell them if/when such devices are no longer in use. Notification forms are available from your local environmental health department.

If you have a case of legionellosis in an employee who has worked on cooling towers or hot water systems that are likely to be contaminated with legionella, you must report this under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR).

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