Legionella: A Silent Killer in Workplaces
Thu, 16 Jul 2020 09:22
If you've returned to your workplace or are planning to soon, no doubt health and safety has been at the forefront of your mind. But there's one aspect you might not have considered yet: your water systems.
Water systems and air conditioners might have been sitting unused since March. Unfortunately, this can make them a key breeding ground for Legionella bacteria. The HSE have released a set of guidelines on handling the issue – but how does it relate to workplaces?
What is Legionella?
Legionella is a type of bacteria that can spread in water and heating systems. There are many different types of Legionella bacteria. Some of the most dangerous cause potentially fatal diseases such as Legionnaires' disease.
Legionella can appear in either man-made or natural water systems. It is most at risk of appearing and multiplying where the water is stagnant and the temperature provides the perfect breeding ground for it. Thankfully, in most workplaces, the temperature and flow of water can be controlled to minimise the risk of Legionella and its associated health risks.
Many of us will be returning to our workplaces, either full or part-time, when there is still a chance of hot weather. For people who have been living through the mini-heatwaves while working from home, a return to an air-conditioned environment might be welcome!
Lots of air conditioning systems will be entirely safe. The HSE guidance provides more information on which systems are at risk and which will require a thorough cleaning before being used again.
Checking Water Systems
Water systems should be checked for Legionella risk and flushed and cleaned if necessary. This includes hot and cold water systems, cooling towers and commercial spas. If they have been used less often during the coronavirus crisis (or not used at all), it is likely they need to be cleaned and checked.
Make sure this work is carried out by someone competent to do so, wearing the correct PPE. If the coronavirus crisis makes it hard to get a competent person to complete this work, it could be safer to not use the water systems – it is better not to take the risk.
One of the most common ways of protecting water systems from Legionella and other bacteria is temperature control.
Training on Legionella and Water Safety
We offer two courses on Legionella: