Legionella Risk Assessment Explained
- What is a Legionella Domestic Risk Assessment and what to expect on the day of our visit?
- What does a Legionella Domestic Risk Assessment contain?
- How to control risks from legionella in your water system?
- What happens if the landlord does not carry out his/her obligations?
- How long are Legionella Domestic Risk Assessments valid for?
- Why choose Pyramid Solution for your Legionella Assessment?
A Legionella risk assessment survey, also referred to as a legionella hazard analysis involves a systematic investigation of the potential risks of exposure to legionella bacteria in cold and hot water systems.
Legionella risk assessments fall within the scope of actions proscribed by COSHH in order to control the risk from a range of hazardous substances, including biological agents.
What is a Legionella Domestic Risk Assessment and what to expect on the day of our visit?
Legionella is a bacteria found in water which causes “legionnaires’ disease” – a severe form of pneumonia which in some cases can be lethal. It usually grows in stored, stagnant and/or re-circulated water between 20–45 °C and where there is a source of nutrients for the organism such presence of rust, sludge, scale, organic matter and biofilms. It is killed by high temperatures at 60°C or above. The bacteria in the water increases daily if the taps are not used, and high levels could be reached by the 7th day of no use. Legionnaires’’ disease affects the lungs. It is very rare and for somebody to become infected they would have to breathe in droplets of water which contain legionella germs from contaminated water systems.
As the Health and Safety Executive has advised in its HSG274, Part 2, the appointed person, known as the responsible person, or legionella assessor, should have sufficient authority, competence and knowledge of the installation to ensure all operational procedures are carried out in a timely and effective manner. During the inspection the assessor collects data that can be used to determine if the property is likely to create a risk from exposure to legionella, a process which normally takes between 30 minutes and 1 hour. This is done by closely checking the whole water system present in the premises and includes: all associated pipework, feed-tanks, water outlets, showerheads, dead legs, etc.
The person carrying out the Legionella Risk Assessment will be taking temperature readings and inspect all water outlets and any water stored on the premises in order to assess whether legionella bacteria are likely to be present and whether there are conditions suitable for growth.
Legionella Risk Assessments are non-invasive visual inspections of the accessible hot and cold water outlets. What this means in practical terms is that during the survey the assessor will not be lifting floor boards, moving furniture or removing panelling to access concealed pipework without the client’s assistance and permission to do so.
On the day of the visit the assessor will require:
• all areas, including lofts, gardens, airing cupboards, etc., where water is stored to be accessible and free from any obstructions
• all water outlets inside and outside the property such as hot water cylinders, cold water storage tanks, even if redundant also to be accessible and free from any obstructions
• if pay-as-you-go electric and/or gas meters are present, they must have enough credit so that tests can be carried out
• prior notification if specific equipment such as tall ladders or access tools will be required
• any animals, children to be safe and adequately supervised during the visit to maintain the safety of the assessor and others
What does a Legionella Domestic Risk Assessment contain?
• management responsibilities, including the name of competent person and a description of your system
• any identified potential risk sources and/or defects
• any controls in place to manage risks
• records of the monitoring results and inspection and checks carried out, including details about each water outlet, temperature readings and photographs for all outlets
• any means of preventing the risk or controls in place to control risks
• recommendations for remedial actions for the control of legionella where necessary
• advice about caring for your water system
How to control risks from legionella in your water system?
The HSE provides a short guide on preventing and adequately controlling the risk from legionella bacteria, where the key point is the design, maintenance and operation of your water services.
If a risk is identified, a course of action including the introduction of appropriate controls should be introduced.
Some of the control measures and strategies identified by the HSE include:
• as for most domestic hot and cold water systems temperature is the most reliable way of ensuring the risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria is minimized, the rule of thumb is to keep the hot water hot, cold water cold and keep it moving
• ensuring that the release of water spray is properly controlled
• avoiding water temperatures and conditions that favour the growth of legionella and other micro-organisms
• ensuring that water cannot stagnate anywhere in the system by keeping pipe lengths as short as possible or by removing redundant pipe work
• avoiding materials that encourage the growth of legionella (The Water Fittings & Materials Directory references fittings, materials, and appliances approved for use on the UK Water Supply System by the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme)
• keeping the system and the water in it clean
• treating water to either control the growth of legionella (and other microorganisms) or limit their ability to grow
• flushing out the system before letting the property
• avoiding debris getting into the system (eg ensure the cold water tanks, where fitted, have a tight-fitting lid);
• setting control parameters (eg setting the temperature of the calorifier to ensure water is stored at 60 °C);
• making sure any redundant pipework identified is removed
• advising tenants to regularly clean and disinfect showerheads
Are Legionella Domestic Risk Assessments legally required?
Legionella assessments are not legally required, however, as the HSE’s Health and Safety Guidance HSG274 released in 2014 in its section on shared premises and residential accommodation clearly states that landlords are under a duty to ensure that the risk of exposure to tenants, residents and visitors by Legionella is properly assessed and controlled to ensure their safety. Before a suitable control scheme can be designed a Legionella risk assessment should always be done.
HSG274 also states:
2.139 Where a managing (or letting) agent is used, the management contract should clearly specify who has responsibility for maintenance and safety checks, including managing the risk from legionella. Where there is no contract or agreement in place or it does not specify who has responsibility, the duty is placed on whoever has control of the premises and the water system in it, and in most cases, this will be the landlord themselves.
Landlords are not necessarily required to record the findings of the assessment (this is only a statutory duty for employers where there are five or more employees), but we strongly recommended to keep a record of what has been done for their own purposes and for regulator for a period of at least 2 years.
What happens if the landlord does not carry out his/her obligations?
Consequences can be serious. As the RLA suggests, landlords are legally required to manage properties so as not to expose tenants, residents and visitors to risk. Heavy fines or even imprisonment can be imposed especially if someone were to die. Landlords can be prosecuted even if there is an exposure to risk without anyone actually becoming ill.
How long are Legionella Domestic Risk Assessments valid for?
Although the law does not prescribe that the risk assessment should be reviewed annually or biennially, it does state that it is important to review the assessment periodically in case anything changes. The Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) L8 – 4th edition lists a number of important changes that can prompt legionella review.
Paragraph 47 of the Guidance states that the record of the assessment should be interpreted as a living document that must be reviewed to ensure it remains up-to-date. Assessment of the review must be arranged regularly and specifically whenever there is reason to suspect it is no longer valid. An indication of when to review the assessment and what to consider should be recorded. This may result from, eg:
(a) the water system or its use changes
(b) the use of the building in which the water system is installed changes
(c) new information about risks or control measures become available
(d) the results of checks indicate that control measures are no longer effective or indicate a problem
(e) changes to key personnel
(f) a case of legionnaires’ disease is linked to the system
The practice shows that the frequency of legionella assessments depends largely on the system present and the outcome of the previous risk assessment. For open systems, such as cooling towers, evaporative condensers and spa pools etc, HSE postulates that routine testing should be carried out at least quarterly.
Pyramid recommends Legionella risk assessments to be conducted and reviewed regularly at least every two years.
Why choose Pyramid Solution for your Legionella Assessment?
Thanks to our immense experience gained through property maintenance and certification provided to landlords, managing agents and private customers in London and Essex we have a deep understanding of your water systems and any associated equipment, which enables us to conclude whether the system is likely to create a risk from exposure to legionella.
Pyramid Solution South East Ltd provide full administration and specialist support for both tenants and landlords.
We are Stroma-certified and our assessors hold HABC Level 2 Awards in Legionella Awareness.
Our Legionella risk assessments are carried out in accordance with Approved Code of Practice and Guidance L8.
We are fully compliant in accordance with HSE and HSC guidelines, and our risk assessments and service will have a significant impact providing a defence to minimise your liabilities and help create a better, safer living and/or working environment.
Please see PDF below for an example of a complete Legionella Risk Assessment carried out by one of our certified assessors