Minimising the risks of legionellosis #1

Minimising the risks of legionellosis #1

This blog is the first of three from Strictly Education Property Services outlining the nature of the legionella bacteria, and providing practical guidance on the steps schools and academies must take to minimise the risk of infection following the long summer holiday.

Legionellosis, also known as Legionnaires’ disease, is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia caused by the water-borne bacterium Legionella Pneumophila. This and related bacteria occur naturally in lakes, rivers and reservoirs, and within school water systems can be found in taps, drinking water fountains, showers, humidifiers, jet washes, hose pipes and recreational fountains. Children, smokers and people with illness and immunosuppression are especially vulnerable to infection.

Schools and head teachers have a duty of care under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations 2002 to ensure that procedures are put in place and carried out by competent personnel to minimise the risk arising from legionella.

Schools, academies and colleges must identify and assess all sources of risk in their premises and prepare a scheme for controlling the risk. This will include conducting a Water Risk Assessment for all hot and cold water systems and carrying out any remedial work identified.

Legionella bacteria thrive in temperatures between 20 – 45 degrees centigrade, in stagnant conditions and in water containing nutrients for microbial growth. The risk of infection is heightened where the bacteria are inhaled directly in water droplets or water in aerosol form.

For these reasons special care must be taken to control the emission of spray, avoid stagnant conditions, monitor water temperatures and keep all systems clean and disinfected.

In particular any water outlets that are infrequently used must be flushed out every week. Shower heads must be cleaned regularly, disinfected monthly and descaled quarterly. Thermostatic mixing valves and water storage systems should be regularly checked according to manufacturer’s instructions and to ensure compliance with Water Regulations.

Careful records must be kept of monitoring and maintenance procedures, and these must be available for inspection under COSHH. Records must show who has overall responsibility, who has carried out the assessment, and who has implemented the precautions.

The next blog will contain practical checks and steps to minimising the risks from the legionella bacterium.

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