What is Legionnaires Disease?
Legionnaires disease is a risk that all landlords should pay attention to and carry out risk reviews. Read on below to find out more.
A Short History
It is a serious illness, it is a form of pneumonia Caused by bacteria legionella pneumophila. It was first identified at the American Legion Convention in Philadelphia in 1976, and this lead to 34 deaths. Other cases have been identified in 2012 & 2013 this was at a US Care Homes, again there were fatalities. Three men died because of Legionnaires’ disease, caught from a garden centre’s poorly maintained display hot tub and a further 18 people needed hospital treatment. In England at Basildon Hospital in 2013 had a major fine of £350,000 following multiple infections including fatalities and on inspection failures were identified to keep equipment such as showers clean.
Legionnaires Disease – How is it acquired?
Legionnaires disease is acquired by inhalation Aerosols tiny droplets of infected water or soil contaminated with the Legionella bacteria. It is not airborne and Legionnaires’ disease is not transmitted from person to person, and it is not acquired by drinking water. It thrives at water temperatures between 25 and 45 °C (77 and 113 °F). The Sources where temperatures allow the bacteria to thrive include hot-water tanks, cooling towers, and evaporating condensers of large air-conditioning systems, such as those commonly found in hotels and large office buildings.
Legionella – Domestic Water Services
The main risks in a domestic water system is from aerosoling from showers or taps, the people who are most at risk are the old. Almost 60% cases involved people aged 60 yrs, or above 75% of those infected were male 55% and the poor condition of their health. What leads to the multiplication of the bacteria is the temperature of the water, the nutrient sources i.e. what it can feed on, bad design of the appliance and poor maintenance procedures.
To protect the public, tenants and tradesmen there is legislation which covers the control of Legionnaires. It is enforced by Health and Safety Executive and Environmental Health Dept.
- Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
- Control of substances hazardous to health
- Approved Code of Practice L8 (Revised 2013 / 2014)
- HTM 04-01 (directed at healthcare e.g. hospitals)
- British Standard 8580 Legionella Risk Assessments
- Legionnaires Risk Assessments and Private Landlord Obligations
- The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) have an Approved Code of Practice and Guidance as regards Legionnaires Disease. The Code can be found here www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/.
The Code states that private landlords have a duty to carry out legionnaires risk assessments on water systems in their properties. Landlords and letting agents are being warned to comply with HSE legislation on controlling the risks associated with the water-borne bacteria, Legionella, or risk facing fines. The courts take Legionnaires very seriously. The Code requires private landlords to carry out:
- A risk assessment to identify and assess potential sources of exposure, and thereafter, where a risk has been identified.
- To introduce a course of action to prevent or control any identified risk.
Legionnaires risk assessments can be carried out by the landlord himself if he is competent to do so, or alternatively it can be done by a suitably qualified third party. The ultimate responsibility remains with the landlord, even where he uses a letting agent to manage the property on his behalf. Legionnaires Disease is potentially a fatal lung infection caused when individuals inhale legionella bacteria. The bacteria can exist in any man made water systems e.g. water storage systems, taps, pipework etc. Issues to be considered when carrying out a risk assessment include:-
- Where water is stored between 20 & 45 degrees
- Where there is stagnant water in any area of the water system
- Where there is rust, sludge, scale or organic matter in the water system
- Whether there are any outlets which are not frequently used, for example showers or taps in second bathrooms
- Where tenants are particularly at risk due to age, illness or weakened immunity
Landlords must regularly review the risk assessment and keep records. Where risks are identified, the landlord must take appropriate action. Should landlords require further information as regards their own specific requirements to Legionnaires Risk Assessments, please do not hesitate to contact us at DMS Installers Ltd 0141 638 1058.