The law surrounding the control of legionella is clear and has not changed since the publication of the L8 Approved Code of Practice in 2001. There were some revisions published in 2013 but the legal requirements remained – all landlords of domestic of business premises must have in place a process to assess the risks associated with legionella. Employers must also ensure the risk assessments are in place and up to date where there could be any potential exposure to legionella. Where there are 5 or more employees, a written record of that risk assessment must be kept.
What should be included in the legionella risk assessment?
At a minimum, the risk assessment is a measure of temperature. The HSE and the L8 ACOP regulations set out clearly the guidance for landlords and employers and advise that temperature is the most reliable way to ensure any risk of exposure to the legionella bacteria is minimised. Basically, this means, hot water should be hot and cold water should be cold. That is over simplifying things – it’s not simply a case of hot and cold but that the temperatures should be maintained within certain parameters and tested. Therefore, the risk assessment should be checking to make sure those temperatures are maintained over time.
Control measures that can be put in place as part of the legionella risk assessment include maintenance of old pipework. Where water storage tanks are in place, ensure they are free from any debris by making sure there is a lid in place. The risk can be minimised further by ensuring systems don’t include storage tanks and combi boilers or electric showers are used.
The legionella risk assessment should have checks in place to show that risk has been minimised by putting systems in place to reduce any exposure to legionella bacteria and that regular checks of these control measures are carried out.
How often should the legionella risk assessment be carried out?
The terms of the legal requirements surrounding legionella risk assessments don’t prescribe set timings for renewal of the assessment. There is no set time for review of for example, one year or every 2 years. However, like all risk assessments, it should be a living document to show continued commitment to minimising the risk of legionella in a property you are responsible for. The importance of having up to date, demonstrable records of legionella risk assessments show that a landlord or employer has fulfilled their legal obligations in terms of ensuring the health and safety of their staff or tenants.
The purpose of the legionella risk assessment is to ensure the safety of tenants and employees and to be able to demonstrate compliance to the regulations at any given time. A 5 stage approach to the assessment is useful:
- Identify sources of risk
- Prepare a method to prevent or control the risk
- Implement, manage and monitor controls that are in place
- Maintain up to date records
- Appoint a responsible person
This is explored further in our Guide to Legionella Risk Assessment
In summary, a legionella risk assessment is a legal requirement, but it shouldn’t feel like a one-off laborious task. An effective legionella control and monitoring regime involves the risk assessment as a living document which has involves a review, implementation of controls, continual monitoring and review that the controls are effective and if something has changed, take action where necessary because ultimately, that is the point of having the risk assessment – to know where action is needed and to take that action swiftly.