How to manage Legionella during and after the Coronavirus pandemic

Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic shops, offices, sports clubs and more have had to closed there doors or had drastic reductions in usage because of national lockdowns or local restrictions.  The measures were often applied so quickly that employers, managers, owners, etc. did not have time to consider what effect the restrictions would have on their hot & cold water systems.  The ongoing effects of the Coronavirus pandemic is leaving many people unsure of what to do.  There has also been an outburst of advice from general from health & safety advisors or governing bodies, much of which has not been correct.  Health & Safety requirements, including those for Legionella, were not relaxed during national lockdowns or local restrictions.  And, when reopening or managing your site you need to ensure you have taken the correct precautions to minimise the risk from both Legionella and Coronavirus.

As water systems have gone unused or the usage has been reduced your water system may have stagnated allowing Legionella bacteria to grow.  Some measures designed to prevent Coronavirus have also increased the risk of Legionella such as taping off fixtures and fittings as a social distancing measure which effectively creates dead legs in the water system.  The measure is often used in conjunction with limiting the number of people allowed in the toilet, kitchen, etc. 

 

Limiting the number of people is the effective social distancing measure and not taping off fixtures and fittings which increases the risk of Legionella.

 

You must ensure that the measure you implement are appropriate for the site and not just implement all the measure you are aware of.

You must consider the individual nature of your site, water system and the measures you already have in place.  You may already have done enough to ensure your hot & cold water system is safe to use such as implementing a weekly flushing regime which is one of the measures the HSE's ACOP L8 recommends when outlets become infrequently used.  It may also be a good time to get your risk assessment up to date.

Risk Assessment - Carrying out any measures without and upto date Legionella risk assessment in place carried out by a person who is competent to assess the site can still leave you liable.

 

A Legionella risk assessment carried out within the last two years is a basic requirement of the 4th edition ACOP L8 released by the HSE in 2013.

 

The risk assessment should be regularly reviewed at least once every 2 years to ensure it is up to date.

 

The risk assessment will identify the measures required to minimise the risk from Legionella.

Regular Flushing - The Health & Safety Executive identify an infrequently used outlet as an outlet not used for a period of seven days or more. 

 

When outlets and water systems become "infrequently used" they need to be "flushed" at least weekly.

 

Why?  Because water can stagnate and promote bacterial growth.  Flushing the water system and outlets will reduce the risk and make reopening your site easier and cheaper.

Legionella Testing - If you have any doubt at all about the safety of your hot & cold water system then get it tested.

 

A Legionella test will confirm the presence of any bacteria, give a bacterial count and tell you the strain of bacteria present.

 

Testing for Legionella should also be carried out before and after any cleaning or chlorination work.

Cleaning, Disinfection & Chlorination - Your water system may or may not need to be chlorinated.  If you are concerned about your system for any reason then get it tested.

 

If after testing for Legionella you decide to chlorinate your system then you also need to test the system for Legionella after the chlorination process.  This is the only way to ensure the chlorination has worked.

 

It is not a certificate of chlorination you need but a test certificate proving there is no Legionella in your hot and cold water system.

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