What is Legionella?
Legionella is pneumonia-like illness caused by bacteria, the most common strain being Legionella Pneumophila. This includes the most serious condition, Legionnaires’ Disease, as well as the similar but less serious conditions, Pontiac Fever and Lochgoilhead Fever.

 

Why is it called Legionnaires Disease?
The disease acquired its name from a then unknown outbreak that occurred in a Hotel in the USA in 1977 where an American Legion were having a convention. A number of the delegates became ill and some subsequently died. The illness was later attributed to bacteria distributed by the hotels air conditioning and cooling systems.

 

Where does it come from?
The bacteria associated with Legionella is naturally occurring yet dormant in water, however under the right conditions it can multiply. The bacteria remains dormant at low temperatures but can multiply where water is stored for sufficient periods of time between 20-45oC. Providing there is a suitable supply of nutrients (such as algae, amoebae, sediment, sludge, scale, corrosion by-products, biofilms etc). Legionella bacteria tends to be most virulent at 37°C.

How do you catch Legionella?
People can catch Legionnaires’ Disease by inhaling small droplets of water suspended in the air (an aerosol), containing the bacteria. Certain types of people are more susceptible to catching the disease and these include:

  • Very young
  • People over the age of 50
  • People already suffering with an illness (such as cancer or diabetes)
  • People with chronic respiratory or kidney disease
  • Smokers or heavy drinkers
  • People with an already impaired immune system
  • Men tend to be more at risk than women

 

What are the Symptoms?
The symptoms are similar to those of flu. If you develop symptoms and you are worried that it might be legionnaires' disease, consult your GP as soon as possible.  Mortality occurs in around 12% of reported cases and significantly higher among the higher risk groups detailed above. 

 

I don’t hear of any outbreaks of the disease
Simply because the disease is strictly controlled in Hospitals, Schools, care homes and commercial buildings. This new legislation is a watered down version of the existing legislation to cover domestic rental properties.

 

Why does this legislation exist?
Water Authorities no longer inspect work, the HSE feels that standards in domestic installations have are not up to current regulations. There is lots of DIY work which does not meet current standards and as such may pose a risk to Legionella.

 

Why a Legionella Risk Assessment (LRA)?
There will always be an inherent risk of Legionella in the hot and cold water system. The job of the Risk Assessment is to identify the level of risk and identify if there is any remedial works required to minimise the risk.

 

What we look for?
We are checking the specification of the H&C water system to be able to store water in the correct manner and temperature. We pay particular attention to areas where water is stored, whether that is by design or by accident. We take temperatures at all outlets and also inspect the condition of the system. We also check for general Health & Safety risks (such as scalding and mains pressure hot water heaters).

 

How often should the LRA be reviewed?
The HSE is not specify how often you need to review the LRA, however we would recommend this is done annually or every time there is a tenant change.

 

Will a review always lead to a new LRA?
Not necessarily. If all the factors remain the same then the original LRA can continue to be relied upon.

 

I have a combination boiler which does not store water – Do I still need to comply?
Yes – We still need to ascertain the level of risk and check to see if all redundant pipework has been removed when the system was installed or updated. There will always be a risk (probably low) but the legislation still requires the legislation to be adhered to.

 

I have a House in Multiple Occupancy (HMO) what do I need to do.
Dependant on how this is set up you are likely to be responsible for carrying out the management of the risk but very much depends on how this is set up. Please call us to discuss this.

 

COMMON MYTHS

Do I need to take water samples and send them off to a laboratory?
No, the Approved code of practice sets out a requirement associated with the risks in the hot & cold water system only. Water sampling is an unnecessary expense and is something we do not recommend. HSE RECENTLY PUBLISHED THIS ADVICE: http://goo.gl/lpVVwe

 

I only need a Risk Assessment
The legislation clearly dictates the risks needs assessing and controlling. By simply providing a Risk Assessment you are only partly complying with the legislation

 

Do I need a new Risk Assessment every two years?
The HSE does not specify a NEW Risk Assessment every two years, however the LRA should be regularly reviewed. A Risk Assessment is required when the review dictates it is required.

 

Legionella Links:
HOUSING ASSOCIATION FINED £12,000
http://goo.gl/4fcD83

RECENT HSE PROSCECUTIONS
http://goo.gl/DqZmoe

HSE LEGIONELLA LANDLORD FAQ’s
http://www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/faqs.htm