The news this week that a public swimming pool in Rochdale has been closed for the second time this year after Legionella was found again in the showers, brings home the importance of constant vigilance when it comes to water hygiene.
The problem was picked up by routine testing and the facility has been closed as a precautionary measure. Bearing in mind that a full disinfection was carried out after the initial problem back in May and “various control measures have been increased including routine testing and daily flushing of all water outlets”, it may seem remarkable that Legionella has been found again. However, given the prevalence of this waterborne bacteria and its ability to hide away in the nooks and crannies of plumbing systems, it is in fact less surprising. Indeed, it shows the value of vigilance and the benefits of rigorous Legionella control as the far more serious issue of a potential Legionnaires’ disease outbreak has been averted.
Here are some of our top tips for maintaining an effective risk control regime:
- Take Legionella control seriously
The most serious mistake you can make is to think that Legionella control isn’t important. While the bacteria is found widely in natural water sources such as lakes and rivers, where it rarely causes a problem, when it colonises manmade water systems it can be dangerous and potentially deadly. The law is clear that landlords and anyone in control of premises has a responsibility to control the risk of Legionella, with serious consequences for non-compliance.
- Get trained
Even if you’re planning to appoint a third party to undertake Legionella control on your behalf, we strongly recommend taking a training course yourself. The landlord or property owner has ultimate responsibility for ensuring that appropriate Legionella control is in place so a basic course for dutyholders is a sensible way to arm yourself with the facts.
- Be methodical and consistent
Regularity and attention to detail are vital for Legionella control. Make sure that you have a risk management schedule and stick to it. Be certain that your risk assessment covers all the bases for your property and your particular plumbing set-up. In a modern house or flat the water system is likely to be straightforward and the risk low, but the older the property and the more complicated the system, the higher the risk.
- If you find a problem, take immediate action
It’s likely that from time to time you may identify an issue or an increased risk of Legionella, such as sediment or sludge in the system, rusty pipes or a problem with water temperature. It’s vital that you take action quickly to remedy the situation as such weaknesses can swiftly become much bigger, more expensive, problems to fix.
- If in doubt, call in the professionals
Assessing the risk of Legionella in a property is not a job for the uninitiated. In its Approved Code of Practice (L8), the Health & Safety Executive stipulates that “the person who carries out the risk assessment and provides advice on prevention and control of exposure must be competent to do so.” This means that they should understand the risk factors for Legionella and also have a comprehensive knowledge of domestic water systems. A plumber will of course satisfy the latter criteria, but may not be well-informed about Legionella, so make sure you check the qualifications of any external supplier you appoint. The Legionella Control Association is a good place to start when looking for a suitable partner.