Water Safety Risk: Legionella

 A Legionnaires outbreak totalled 101 cases in Edinburgh last year (2012), an outbreak that would have been prevented if the risks had been managed correctly. Lack of awareness of the risks is often the cause of these events when they could easily be prevented.

Legionnaires is a disease caused by a bacteria (“Legionella”), which is naturally present in small amounts in most water sources. The problem only arises when the bacteria is given the chance to multiply without the danger being recognised and dealt with. This only occurs when water is allowed to become stagnant in temperatures between 20-40 degrees Celsius.

The obvious risks are situations like water tanks (often contained in the loft) which are not regularly emptied completely. However, less obvious risks are things like water coolers, where the pipes that the water runs through have connections where water is able to gather. Most people are aware that shower heads are a risk, due to the warm water used and its potential to gather in the shower head.

Business owners and managers have a duty to carry out water safety risk assessments because they would be held responsible if an outbreak occurred. Legionnaires is a Flu-like illness that can develop into pneumonia type conditions, and in the vulnerable there is a high risk of death, and therefore must be taken seriously. Risk assessment and appropriate action is essential, covering any place within the business where water is found.

More Info

For more advice, visit the HSE website:
www.hse.gov.uk

(Legionnaires specific) http://www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/what-you-must-do.htm

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