Legionella is an often forgotten threat that could have a detrimental effect on your event, and your customers. If you have any form of water systems at your event, you could be affected. So learn what to look out for, and how to prevent it.
What is Legionnaires ’ disease?
Legionellosis is the term used for diseases caused by legionella bacteria such as Legion-naires’ disease. Legionnaires’ disease is the most serious condition, which is a form of pneumonia, everyone is susceptible to infection and can potentially lead to fatality.
Clubs, especially sports centres, must ensure that a robust system is in place to manage the risk of Legionella.
Where does it come from?
The bacterium Legionella pneumophila and related bacteria can be found in natural water sources (e.g. rivers, lakes, ponds and reservoirs) and purpose-built water systems (e.g. cool-ing towers, evaporative condensers, hot and cold-water systems and spa pools). There are normally low numbers found in natural water sources.
How do people catch it and what conditions are required for them to be exposed?
Legionnaires’ disease is contracted by inhaling small droplets of water (i.e. aerosols) suspended in the air which contains the bacteria.
For the bacteria to grow conditions must be favourable, increasing the risks of exposure to Legionnaires’ disease. Favourable conditions include:
- water temperature is between 20-45°C in all, or some parts of the source/system
- breathable water droplets are created and dispersed (e.g. from a cooling tower or shower head)
- stagnant water (e.g. dead legs/long runs of pipework) that is stored and recirculated
- deposits that can support bacterial growth providing a source of nutrients for the organism (e.g. sludge and rust)
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms are similar to flu and may include:
- high temperature, feverishness and chills
- muscle pains
- diarrhoea and signs of mental confusion
Legionella at the workplace
Health and Safety (H&S) legislation provides duties to an employer, or someone in control of the premises to understand and manage legionella risks.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) and guidance doc-ument, ‘Legionnaires’ disease – The Control of Legionella bacteria in water systems (L8)’ contains practical guidance on how to manage and control the risks in systems so that they are adequately controlled.
They must understand how to:
- carry out any other duties
- identify and assess sources of risk
- manage any risks
- prevent or control any risks
- carry out any other duties
Identify and assess sources of risk
All systems require a risk assessment detailing control measures that is proportionate to the risk to demonstrate that they are being adequately managed. If it is found that a system is low risk and controlled adequately (e.g. a small building with domestic-type water systems) there would be no requirement for further action to be taken. For systems with a higher risk, further action may be necessary, and assistance may be required from a competent person.
The risk assessment must be reviewed regularly to consider any changes.
Manage any risks
If a significant risk from exposure to legionella is highlighted, a competent person (i.e. re-sponsible person) must be appointed to be responsible for complying with H&S duties and controlling the risks. This may be somebody internal or external to an organisation.
Prevent or control any risks
Preventing the risk of legionella must take priority over controlling the risk. Where preven-tion is not possible, a written control scheme must be introduced to help manage the risk from legionella by implementing effective control measures. The scheme should include information such as, the system, person(s) responsible for the risk assessment, safe and cor-rect operation of the system, controls being used and type / frequency of checks to be car-ried out to ensure controls remain effective. Simple control measures may include:
- regular flushing of systems (e.g. taps, showers etc.)
- avoiding debris to get into systems
- setting control parameters (e.g. storage of water outside of 20-45 °C)
- remove any redundant pipework
If it is suspected that there is a legionella issue within the workplace, this must be reported to a manager and any other relevant parties (e.g. occupational health therapist). Any cases of legionellosis to an employee that has been confirmed by a health professional must be reported under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR).
How would you be able to handle a prosecution for Legionella offences? Do you need advice on putting together a safe system? If you think you need some advice, talk to our team today.
Adapted from the HSE www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/index.htm