Legionella risk assessments: how to choose a ‘competent person’
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) stipulates in its Approved Code of Practice (ACoP L8) on the control of Legionella in water systems that the duty holder (usually the landlord) must “appoint a competent person with sufficient authority and knowledge of the [water system] installation to help take the measures needed to comply with the law.” But what does this really mean? In our experience there is considerable confusion among property owners and managers, so here is our guide to your options when it comes to appointing a competent person.
Option 1: a specialist Legionella control professional
The law doesn’t require duty holders to employ the services of a qualified Legionella risk assessor, but ACoP L8 stipulates that “those specifically appointed to implement the control measures and strategies should be suitably informed, instructed and trained and their suitability assessed. They must be properly trained to a level that ensures tasks are carried out in a safe, technically competent manner; and receive regular refresher training.” By working with a reputable, qualified professional (such as a member of the Legionella Control Association), you can be sure that your risk assessment and Legionella control procedures are in safe hands. We recommend consulting the LCA for advice on how to choose a suitable supplier.
Option 2: a suitably-qualified plumber
Some plumbers are trained in assessing and managing the risk of Legionella, so if you have a trusted plumbing supplier it’s worth asking if they have relevant qualifications. However, if they haven’t received specialist Legionella training they may not be sufficiently knowledgeable. For instance, they need to be able to produce a detailed schematic drawing of your plumbing system and be able to identify potential sources of risk. The HSE advises that “before you employ a contractor, you should be satisfied that they can do the work you want to the standard that you require.”
Option 3: a letting agent or property management firm
If you’re a landlord working with a letting agent or property management company, they may offer Legionella control services. Again, it is your responsibility to ensure that they are properly competent and have adequate, up-to-date training.
Option 4: do it yourself
The HSE acknowledges that it is acceptable for the duty holder to handle Legionella risk assessment and management themselves providing they are competent. There is no reason why you can’t take a DIY approach if you are knowledgeable (and ideally formally trained) in all relevant aspects of plumbing systems and Legionella risks. The HSE provides detailed advice on what you must do to be compliant so, if you have the time, experience and inclination, you can take matters into your own hands. If you require competency training, we can help.
Whichever option you choose, don’t forget that the control of Legionella is an ongoing process, not a report to put in a drawer to be forgotten about. Review your risk assessment regularly, including each time that you make changes to your water system and make sure that paperwork is kept up-to-date.