Dynamic Project Management

Legionella Risk Assessments

Requirements to have an assessment

Carrying out a legionella risk assessment and ensuring it remains up to date is required under the health and safety legislation, and is a key duty when managing the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria.

The requirement to have a risk assessment covers the person in control of the premises or responsible for the water systems in their premises. They have a legal duty to ensure that the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria is properly assessed and controlled.

This duty extends to residents, guests, tenants and customers. It also covers those who have, to any extent, control of premises for work-related activities or the water systems in the building have a responsibility to those who are not their employees, but who use those premises.

Who takes responsibility?

The extent of the duty will depend on the nature of that agreement. For example, in a building occupied by one leaseholder, the agreement may be for the owner or leaseholder to take on the full duty for the whole building or to share the duty.

In a multi-occupancy building, the agreement may be that the owner takes on the full duty for the whole building. Alternatively, it might be that the duty is shared where, e.g. the owner takes responsibility for the common parts while the leaseholders take responsibility for the parts they occupy.

In other cases, there may be an agreement to pass the responsibilities to a managing agent. Where a managing agent is used, the management contract should clearly specify who has responsibility for maintenance and safety checks, including managing the risk from legionella.

Where there is no contract or tenancy agreement in place or it does not specify who has responsibility, the duty is placed on whoever has control of the premises, or part of the premises.  

Multiple occupiers

Where a property has a number of occupiers, the management contract should clearly specify who has responsibility for maintenance and safety checks, including managing the risk from legionella.

Where there is no contract or agreement in place, or it does not specify who has responsibility, the duty is placed on whoever has control of the premises and the water system in it, and in most cases, this will be the landlord themselves. 

Estate management

In estate management, it is increasingly common for there to be several duty holders in one building. In such cases, duties may arise where persons or organisations have clear responsibility through an explicit agreement, such as a contract or tenancy agreement.

Which systems require assessment?

All systems require a risk assessment, however not all systems will require elaborate control measures. A simple risk assessment may show that the risks are low and being properly managed to comply with the law (e.g. small domestic-type water systems).

In such cases, further action may not be needed but it is important to review regularly in case of any changes and specifically if there is reason to suspect it is no longer valid.

The ACOP states that a suitable and sufficient assessment must be carried out to identify and assess the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria from work activities and water systems on the premises and any precautionary measures needed. The duty holder is responsible for ensuring the risk assessment is carried out. 

Carrying out a risk assessment

The risk assessment should consider all aspects of operation of the hot and cold-water systems and while there will be common factors; the individual characteristics of each system should be taken into account.

Site personnel who manage the systems to determine current operational practice should be consulted. The commissioning, decommissioning, periods of operation, maintenance, treatment and subsequent management of each individual aspect of operation will require review and validation to ensure site procedures are effective.

Failure to comply

The ACOP has been approved by the Health and Safety Executive, with the consent of the Secretary of State. It gives practical advice on how to comply with the law. If the advice it gives is followed, then you will be doing enough to comply with the law in respect of those specific matters on which the Code gives advice.

Alternative methods to those set out in the Code may be used in order to comply with the law. However, the Code has a special legal status.

If you are prosecuted for breach of health and safety law, and it is proved that you did not follow the relevant provisions of the Code, you will need to show that you have complied with the law in some other way or a Court will find you at fault. 

What next?

Carrying out a legionella risk assessment and ensuring it remains up to date is required under the health and safety legislation, and is a key duty when managing the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria.

The requirement to have a risk assessment covers the person in control of the premises or responsible for the water systems in their premises. They have a legal duty to ensure that the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria is properly assessed and controlled.

This duty extends to residents, guests, tenants and customers. It also covers those who have, to any extent, control of premises for work-related activities or the water systems in the building have a responsibility to those who are not their employees, but who use those premises.

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionellosis is a collective term for diseases caused by Legionella bacteria including the most serious Legionnaires’ disease, as well as the similar but less serious conditions of Pontiac fever and Lochgoilhead fever.

Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and everyone is susceptible to infection.

The risk increases with age, but some people are at higher risk, including the very young, people over 45, people already suffering from an illness (e.g. especially cancer, chronic respiratory or kidney disease, lung and heart disease or diabetes), people with an impaired immune system, smokers and heavy drinkers.

Where does it exist?

The bacterium Legionella Pneumophila and related bacteria are common in natural water sources such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs, but usually in low numbers.

They may also be found in purpose-built systems, such as cooling towers, hot and cold-water systems and spa pools etc. If conditions are favourable, the bacteria may multiply, increasing the risk of Legionnaires’ disease, and it is therefore important to control the risk by introducing appropriate measures.

Outbreaks of the illness occur from exposure to Legionella growing in purpose-built systems where water is maintained at a temperature high enough to encourage growth.

Proliferation of Legionella

Legionella bacteria occur naturally (in low numbers) in most natural sources of water and can survive at temperatures ranging from 6°C to 60°C.

They can remain dormant at low temperatures and multiply readily at temperatures between 20°C and 45°C, (which is suitable for growth), providing they have a suitable supply of nutrients.

Legionella bacteria are at their most virulent at 37°C. Legionella bacteria can obtain the nutrients that they need to multiply from a wide variety of sources, including algae, amoebae, sediment, sludge, scale, corrosion by-products, biofilms and other bacteria.

Don’t be at risk

For more information on legionella risks assessments, awareness training and annual cover, please give us a call on 07956 377266 or send a message online.