Legionella pneumophila (and related bacteria) is a bacterium that can cause legionnaires’ disease a potentially fatal form of pneumonia. Initial symptoms include high fever, chills, head and muscle pain. Infection is usually caused by breathing in small droplets of water contaminated by the bacteria. Although the disease can affect anybody, some people are at higher risk e.g. those over 45 years of age, smokers, heavy drinkers, those suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease, and people whose immune system is impaired.
The legionella bacteria are naturally present in the environment. However, if bacteria are allowed to thrive and grow, the risk of Legionnaire’s disease will increase. Legionella bacteria survives low temperatures and thrive at temperatures between 20-45°C if the conditions are right e.g. nutrients are present such as rust, sludge, scale, algae or other bacteria.
All suspected legionella cases must be reported to the Health & Safety Team immediately who will notify the HSE if required. Action will then be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Colleges/ PSUs have a specific obligation under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) to assess the risk of exposure to substances hazardous to health with appropriate controls put in place to manage any risks. This includes biological agents such as legionella.
Within your Colleges/ PSU you need to first identify what equipment/ systems are used that could pose a legionella risk. As with any hazard, you then need to assess the risk and eliminate it or control it. Responsibility for operating, maintaining and ensuring the safety of College/ PSU ‘owned’ equipment/ systems rests with the College/ PSU. This includes assessing any legionella risks associated with the equipment/ system’s operation. As part of this process it is recommended risk assessments are discussed with the Fire & Premises Manager/ Compliance Officers so appropriate controls can be developed and introduced.
The Fire & Premises Manager will also be able to source external advice on legionella risks associated with specialist or higher risk equipment if required.
Legionella Awareness training is available to you, take a look at our training pages.
Find out more about Legionella.
Legionella- Procedure for Flushing Infrequently Used Taps
Legionella - Infrequently Flushed Taps Form