If you are a Landlord, Letting Agent, Employer or in charge of or responsible for a property and even if you work from home then you may have an obligation under Health & Safety law to have a Legionella Risk Assessment carried out, as well as carrying out other preventative measures. Failure to do so can lead to fines, prosecution and even imprisonment.
In November 2013 the Health & Safety Executive released the 4th edition of the Approved Code of Practice for the Control of Legionella Bacteria in Water Systems commonly called ACOP L8. The Code of Practice has been approved by the HSE with the consent of the Secretary of State. It gives practical advice on how to comply with the law. If you follow its advice you will be doing enough to comply with the law in respect of those specific matters on which the Code gives advice. The Code of Practice has a special legal status. If you are prosecuted for a breach of health and safety law, and it is proved that you did not follow the relevant provisions of the Code of Practice, you will need to show that you have complied with the law in some other way or a Court may find you at fault.
What is Legionella? Legionella is a bacteria found in soil and water. Whilst it is a naturally occurring bacteria it is normally only found in low quantities. However, in hot & cold water systems, air conditioning and even in soils & composts the bacteria can grow and in larger quantities the various strains of Legionella bacteria can present a risk to life. The bacteria can lead to Legionnaires Disease. Every year there are preventable deaths caused by Legionnaires Disease. The potential of this bacteria is so serious that the HSE publishes a monthly legionella report. In recent years we have seen a mortality rate of 14% as a result of notified UK Legionella cases, that is a higher mortality rate than some cancers.
What Happens If I Breach the ACOP L8? If you breach the ACOP L8 you can be fined, prosecuted and even go to prison. In September 2016, new sentencing guidelines for health & safety failures were issued to the courts. The new guidelines set a starting point of a £10,000 fine for a minor breach with a potential jail term. The level of fines and potential jail terms rise in severity up to unlimited fines and several years in prison for the most serious offences. Under the new guidelines there have been a number of fines of well over £1,000,000.
What is a Breach? Only the courts can interpret the law but examples that we are seeing of minor breaches include simply not having a risk assessment in place. Major breaches would include instances where people have been injured, made ill or loss of life as a result of the health & safety failure.
Our Services, Water Wise offer a range of Legionella related services based on the HSE's ACOP L8 including;
Are We Competent? As a Duty Holder or person in charge of premises it is your responsibility to ensure anyone who undertakes work in your property is competent to do so. At Water Wise we have over a decades water industry related experience and are;
Recognised by DEFRA and the Secretary of State as Approved Contractors
Special consideration needs to be given if you are regulated or inspected by the Care Quality Commission, Ofsted or the BMA. This is because the ACOP L8 has an increased performance criteria for healthcare related premises such as care homes, GP surgeries and dentists. These increased performance criteria exist because of the increased risk to life that Legionella presents in healthcare related properties.
As well as being a legal requirement for many in order to register with the CQC providers must be compliant with the new regulations and with the Guidance about Compliance: "Essential Standards of Quality and Safety" published by the CQC. These regulations apply to all providers including care homes, nursing homes, doctors, GP's, dentists, etc.. and are supported by the British Medical Association.
The Essential Standards of Quality and Safety cover a wide spectrum of areas and contain the outcomes the CQC expects service users to experience if a provider is compliant with the new regulations.
Outcome 10: Safety and Suitability of Premises specifically requires service providers to manage risks in relation to legionella and to do so with reference to the Legionella Code of Practice.
In addition, Regulation 12 of the Health and Social Care Act along with Outcome 8, refers to cleanliness and infection control and a new legal duty, applicable to adult social care providers, to protect service users against any “identifiable risks” of acquiring infections.
Paragraph 17 of Ofsted's Common Inspection Framework (CIF) says that inspectors will "take prompt and appropriate action on any safeguarding or health and safety issues".
The Governance Handbook page 59 states that the health and safety of pupils is a statutory duty of governors. In this respect, Health & Safety failings could impact on your Ofsted report.