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Preventing Legionella disease in the workplace

Updated: Jul 16, 2023

What is Legionnaires' disease?

Legionella is a type of bacteria that can cause severe pneumonia-like illnesses, known as Legionnaires’ disease. It thrives in warm, moist environments like showerheads, water tanks, hot tubs, and cooling towers.


What are the risks of contracting Legionnaires' disease.

The risks of contracting Legionella infection in the workplace are high, particularly for those working in healthcare facilities, hospitality, and commercial buildings. The bacteria can be inhaled when contaminated water is turned into fine aerosols, such as in showers, spray taps or cooling towers.


Are some people at greater risk than others?

Yes. Although anyone can develop the disease if legionella bacteria is inherited, some people are at a greater risk. Those with a weaker immune system such as the elderly and those over the age of 45 are more susceptible to Legionnaires' infection.


How can employers minimise the risk posed by legionella bacteria?

Here are some tips on how to prevent Legionella infection in your workplace.


1. Conduct a Legionella Risk Assessment

Conduct a legionella risk assessment of the workplace to identify potential sources of Legionella growth. This process will help determine the risks associated with the bacteria. It includes examining the water supply, assessing the temperature of stored and circulating water, researching the history of water usage, and reviewing the system’s design.


2. Regular Cleaning and Disinfection

Regular cleaning and disinfection of water systems play a significant role in preventing the growth and spread of Legionella bacteria. High-risk areas require more frequent cleaning, particularly areas where water is stored or scale can form. These areas can include water tanks, showers, or taps inserts ie flow straighteners or spray nozzles. Disinfectants that are effective against Legionella bacteria should be used.


3. Control Water Temperature

Legionella thrives in warm water, so maintaining appropriate water temperature is critical. Cold water should be kept below 20°C, whereas hot water should be stored at a minimum of 60°C and distributed at a minimum of 50°C. Assign staff who are knowledgeable in controlling water systems.


4. Educate Staff

It is vital to educate employees and staff on the dangers of Legionella bacteria and how to prevent it. Provide training to employees on how to identify potential sources of Legionella growth, the importance of regularly cleaning water systems, and promoting good hygiene practices.


5. Regularly Test and Monitor

Regular testing, monitoring, and record-keeping are essential in identifying any issues before they become a significant problem. The testing should include checking water temperatures and disinfection control measures. If there are issues, immediate action should be taken.


Conclusion

Preventing Legionella infection in the workplace requires measures to control water systems, regular cleaning and maintenance, monitoring, and staff education. The prevention of Legionella bacteria will not only ensure healthy employees and service-users but also prevent any legal implications and reputational damage. A systematic and regular approach can minimise risk and create a safe and healthy work environment.


If you would like to speak with one of our water safety specialists about managing legionella within your workplace or business call us today on 07411303505 or contact us here.


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