Legionella pneumophila (commonly known as Legionella) is the bacteria which causes Legionnaires’ disease. It is often found in natural water sources such as rivers and ponds, however, it can rapidly multiply if it gets into manmade hot and cold water systems, especially if the system provides a source of ‘food’ such as limescale, rust or algae. The bacteria thrives at temperatures between 20°C and 50°C and the organism can colonise large and small water systems so both must be managed effectively to prevent risk to human life.
The Legionella bacteria is commonly found in nature. It mainly lives in bodies of water e.g. ponds and lakes, and is usually harmless.
Outbreaks of Legionnaire’s disease originate in manmade water systems where temperatures are suitable to encourage growth of the bacteria (i.e. between 20°C and 50°C), e.g. in evaporative condensers, cooling towers, spa pools/hot tubs and from water used for domestic purposes in buildings such as offices, hospitals, hotels.
Most UK outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease have been traced to air-conditioning or water cooling systems which can spread infected droplets of water over a large area.
Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia, caused by inhaling tiny droplets of water containing Legionella bacteria. The droplets can be created by showers, spa pools/hot tubs, sprinkler systems, cooling towers or evaporative condensers etc.
Certain groups of people are more vulnerable to contracting Legionnaires’ disease. Susceptibility increases with age but those at higher risk include people over 45 years of age; smokers and heavy drinkers; people suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease, diabetes, lung and heart disease; anyone with an impaired immune system. Young people, particularly those under 20 years of age, are unlikely to be vulnerable to the disease.
Initial symptoms usually include flu-like symptoms, such as mild headaches, muscle pain, high temperature (usually 38°C or above), chills, tiredness, and a confused mental state. Once bacteria begin to infect the lungs symptoms of pneumonia may develop, such as a persistent cough, shortness of breath or chest pains. It usually takes six to seven days between getting the infection and the start of symptoms (known as the incubation period), although it can be any time from two to 19 days. As it has similar symptoms to other illnesses, a urine or blood test can be used to check for Legionnaires' disease. The infection isn't contagious and can't be spread directly from person to person.
Sufferers are usually hospitalised and treated with antibiotics.
Pontiac fever is a milder form of Legionnaire’s disease, often affecting previously healthy and young individuals. Symptoms can include fever, headaches and muscle aches but unlike Legionnaires’ disease Pontiac fever does not cause pneumonia. The incubation period is short and varies from a few hours to 12 to 48 hours.
There are a number of different regulations which relate to the control of Legionella, including the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
Measures used to control Legionella include regular cleaning and flushing of the water system, regulation of water temperatures and maintaining safe pipework. Employing a professional, accredited firm to carry out regular risk assessments can be one way to comply with regulations.
The Legionella Control Association (LCA) is a voluntary organisation whose membership comprises providers of services and products concerned with the control of legionella bacteria in water systems. Compliance for Landlords is an accredited member of the LCA.
A landlord is anyone who rents out a property, or even just a room, under a lease or licence. This could be a private individual, a housing authority, housing association, hostel or other commercial or charitable enterprise. By law landlords have a duty of care to their tenants to ensure their health and safety. This means keeping the property safe and free from hazards, including water-related hygiene.
Yes, CFL are leading legionella specialists providing independent and impartial advice on all aspects of Legionella control, risk assessment, management and prevention, as well as other water hygiene issues.
Yes. We are members of the UK Legionella Control Association (LCA), and as such are signed up to their Code of Conduct and Service Provider Commitments. We are visited annually by an LCA assessor who audits our Statement of Compliance and we also receive periodic audit visits from their team of assessors to ensure our standards remain high.
In addition we hold both ISO9001 for our quality standards and ISO14001 for our environmental management standards. We are also members of the Government’s Constructionline registration scheme, Safe Contractor accredited and registered with CHAS, the Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme.
Yes, our qualified engineers carry out Legionella risk assessments for over 25,000 properties across the UK, providing a full report and recommendations.
Yes, we provide a number of accredited training courses for trade professionals, landlords and letting agents. Contact us to find out more.
Yes, our compliance audits offer an impartial assessment of a client’s compliance status, providing advice on areas for improvement and highlighting any areas of non-compliance.
Yes. Our risk management services provide a framework for proactive and effective control of Legionella risk. No-one can guarantee the absence of Legionella bacterial in a water system, but we are able to reduce risks to a minimum.
Yes, we create schematic drawings as part of our risk assessment procedure, giving our clients a clear understanding of their buildings’ water systems and providing an important component of the compliance paper chain.
Yes, our laboratory services offer specialist testing and analysis of water samples for Legionella bacteria and other waterborne pathogens. Our expert laboratory and microbiology services operate to strict quality control and laboratory accreditation standards (UKAS) to ensure accuracy and reliability.
Yes, we have bespoke risk management software system which is an important management tool for us and our clients alike, providing user-friendly, secure data management, reporting and scheduling services.
Yes, we provide a broad spectrum of water hygiene services to clients in the public and private sector, including surveys and risk assessment of building water systems for Legionella control; specialist advice for cooling towers, swimming pools, spas and process water systems; preparation of electronic logbook systems; schematic system layouts; ongoing monitoring, audit and record keeping; water sampling and analysis; ongoing water hygiene monitoring; training; independent advice on system design and hygiene control including water treatment options; Pseudomonas risk assessment and sampling.
The L8 Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) is a set of guidance issued by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) in November 2013. It sets out the requirements relating to the control of Legionella in rented properties and workplaces where water is used or stored and there is a reasonably foreseeable risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria.
A risk assessment must be carried out by a competent person who is experienced in identifying the risks for Legionella contamination. It may show that there are no real risks and that water flow is being properly managed with no further action needed, however it is important to review the assessment in case anything changes in the water system.
Yes. You must be able to provide documented evidence of a competent risk assessment having been undertaken on your property at least every two years. This should comprise a detailed written report on the conditions at the time of the inspection, along with a schematic drawing of the water system and any remedial actions that are needed to reduce the risk of Legionella.
For most domestic hot and cold water systems, temperature is the most reliable way of ensuring the risk of exposure is minimised, by keeping the hot water hot (over 50°C) and the cold water cold (below 20°C). It’s also important to keep the water moving to avoid stagnation. Other simple control measures include flushing the system regularly (particularly if the property is vacant for any length of time), stopping debris from entering the system (e.g. via uncovered water tanks) and ensuring that any redundant pipework is removed. Risk is reduced by using instantaneous water heaters such as combi boilers and electric showers because then there is no water storage.
The HSE guidelines recommend assessing the risk of Legionella at least once every two years. It is also advisable to review the assessment if any relevant changes are made to the property’s water system.
It’s important that water is not allowed to stagnate within the water system and, as a general principle, outlets on hot and cold water systems should be flushed for three minutes at least once a week.
No. Testing or sampling for Legionella is not usually required for domestic hot and cold water systems, except in special circumstances where a risk assessment has indicated a need.
No. Health and safety law does not require landlords to obtain – nor does the HSE recognise – a Legionella test certificate.
HSE and Local Authority inspectors do not proactively inspect domestic premises.
If your tenant becomes ill with Legionnaires’ disease from water at your property, you may be liable to prosecution and would have to demonstrate to a court that you have fulfilled your legal duties with regard to managing the risk of Legionella.
Tenants should be advised of any control measures that need to be maintained, e.g. not to adjust any temperature settings and to clean showerheads regularly. They should also inform the landlord if the hot water is not heating properly or if there are other faults or problems with the water system which need to be remedied.