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COVID-19 and Increased Risk of Legionella

legionella and covid 19 risk

During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many buildings have been left with reduced occupancy or have been closed. With reduced usage and interruption of cleaning regimes, water system stagnation is likely to occur. Stagnation offers an ideal breeding ground for legionella bacteria, increasing the likelihood of people contracting Legionnaire’s disease. 

 

What is Legionnaires disease?

Legionella is a genus of bacteria commonly found in water. If you inhale small droplets of water that contain Legionella bacteria then you may contract Legionnaires disease – a severe type of pneumonia that can be fatal. Older adults, smokers and people with a compromised immune system are particuarly susceptible to this disease and symptoms include a cough, breathing difficulties, chest pain and flu like systems (there is more information on the NHS website here)

You can catch Legionnaire’s disease from any system that uses water, such as:

  • Air Conditioning Units
  • Taps and water systems that are not used often
  • Hot tubs
  • Humidifiers

Legionella can become a health problem in spaces such as schools, healthcare systems, offices, and factories if the risks are not appropriately controlled.

 

How do you minimise the risk?

It is important for any workplace with water systems to have a legionella risk assessment in place. A comprehensive legionella risk assessment should be carried out every 2 years, or any time there is a significant change in the design or use of the water system. If your premises have been unoccupied, for example during the COVID-19 pandemic, then you should have this risk assessment reviewed before you reinstate and restart water systems and air conditioning units. This will help you to manage the risks of legionella and any potential health implications on your employees.

 

What is involved in a Legionella risk assessment?

A Legionella risk assessment should be carried out by a qualified assessor in line with L8 ACoP and HSG274 best practice. The assessor will:

  • Conduct a visual inspection of water assets’ condition
  • Assess water temperature readings to identify conditions that may promote bacterial growth
  • Carry out microbiological sampling to determine present bacteria counts
  • Assess existing legionella management policies and processes.

Upon completion of the above assessments, you will be provided with a report where you will be advised on your current compliance and recommendations will be given on future improvement.

 

Do you need a Legionella Risk Assessment?

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