Legionella Control: the high cost of doing nothing

legionella control
Legionella

Ignore legionella control legislation at your own risk – the consequences are severe.

The standard in the UK to which all legionella risk assessments should follow and adhere to is the Approved Code of Practice L8 (ACOP L8), set by the Health and Safety Executive. This was updated in 2014 to implement HSG274 parts one, two and three. The L8 standard along with the British Standards 8580-1:2019 Water Quality Risk Assessments for Legionella Controls Code of Practice are there to help ensure legionella control and prevent the spread of infection.

This guidance on the control of legionella provides the framework which business owners, landlords and property owners must adhere to in order to protect staff and tenants. If followed, legionella outbreaks should be avoided. However, despite these stringent guidelines, there were still 471 confirmed cases reported in England and Wales in 2019, according to the UK Government November 2019 report. Why there were so many is not clear and raises some important questions:

  • was advice and guidance ignored?
  • were all the necessary measures taken but for some reason it wasn’t enough?
  • or was gross negligence at play?

We don’t know what the answer to that is but one thing that is not in doubt is that the consequences for being held responsible for an outbreak of legionella are severe and include hefty fines or even prison.

One report at the end of 2019 was of two business owners who each received a sentence of 12 weeks in prison for failing to manage the risk of legionella in the cooling tower they were responsible for. The sentence was suspended but still points to the implications of not adhering to the legislation. There are reports of hefty fines and in one case, care home provider BUPA were fined £3 million when they were found to be responsible following the death of a resident in one of their care homes.

These cases highlight the point that legionella control is not something that can be taken lightly. It is a fact of being in business or being a property owner that you have a duty of care to ensure the safety of employees and residents. Failure to do so is not an option if you want to stay on the right side of the law.

Given that there is stringent legislation in place and cases of legionella still appear points to gross negligence for not taking appropriate steps. However, if a landlord or owner feels they’ve done all they could to prevent legionella and yet it happens would suggest it is an extremely difficult bacteria to eradicate completely. For that reason, records need to be kept up to date to provide evidence of compliance, that safety checks were carried out at the required time intervals and where issues were highlighted, that corrective action was put in place.

If there is an outbreak of legionella and these records are in place and up to date then the owner, landlord or employer can prove they followed the legislation. The hefty penalties arise when there is no record, and nothing was done to prevent the outbreak from happening – there is no excuse for that. There is plenty of help to make sure you remain in control and on top of legionella control. Anyone not taking that help and ignoring legislation deserves all the penalties they receive.

Speak to us about how we can help you keep your records and reports up to date to demonstrate compliance to the L8 legislation.

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