If your office or site has been closed during the lockdown, check your water outlets. Employers and those in charge of premises, such as office Landlords are being advised to check water outlets that may not have been used during the lockdown period.
Employers have a duty of care to identify and control risks associated with Legionella and have been advised to check:
- – Hot and cold-water sources and systems
- – Cooling towers
- – Commercial pools, spas and hot tubs
The HSE has published detailed guidance on Legionella and ensuring safer working during the Covid-19 outbreak which can be accessed here.
What is Legionella?
Legionella is a bacterium that is found in water systems, showers, cooling towers, spa waters and can occur in air conditioning systems.
It is particularly prevalent when there are sufficient nutrients (e.g. rust or algae in water tanks) to support growth and the temperature of the water is between 20-50 0C or where breathable droplets such as mists and aerosols are generated by a poorly maintained cooling system or in heated spa pools.
Legionella is also more likely to develop in water systems that are used infrequently or following temporary cessation of operations. It is relatively easy to prevent the growth and development of the legionella bacteria by maintaining the temperature of cold-water outlets below 20 0C and hot water outlets above 50.
What to look out for…
A regime of regular temperature checks should be implemented dependent upon the configuration of the water system in your setting. Water tanks should be inspected to ensure they are free of algae/rust and in some water systems e.g. in cooling towers, dosing with suitable reagents will kill the bacteria.
The symptoms of legionnaires disease are similar to flu, and because it can be fatal, it is important to seek medical advice if you think you might have contracted the disease. Legionnaires’ disease is not known to spread from person to person.
Symptoms can include:
- high temperature, feverishness and chills;
- muscle pains;
- headache; and leading on to
- pneumonia, very occasionally
- diarrhea and signs of mental confusion
Employers and others who are in control of premises have a number of responsibilities that are outlined in the Health and Safety at Work Act, the Management of Health and Safety Regulations and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations and it is important that a risk assessment is in place that identifies where the risks from legionnaires may occur and what controls are required.
You may need to seek advice from a competent person to assist you to discharge your obligations.
For further information and advice visit the HSE website here.
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