Legionella Safety Concerns - What You Need to Know

Legionella is the bacteria that is responsible for Legionnaire’s Disease, which was a disease that broke out in the 1970s. This dangerous bacteria exists in water and moist soil and has been found in hot and cold water taps, creeks, ponds, water in air conditioning towers and many other places.

The bacteria causes Legionnaire’s Disease, which is an acute respiratory infection that can be very serious. This bacteria constitutes a very serious health and safety risk in the workplace and it is very important that it is eliminated so that it doesn’t cause illness. The truth is that any water system, if it has the right conditions, could become a breeding ground for Legionella bacteria. This is why it is important to know how to prevent this bacteria from forming and keep water systems clean and healthy.

If you are an employer or someone in control of the premises, it is your duty to manage the risk of legionella. The best way to prevent Legionnaire’s Disease is to make sure that all water systems are properly maintained and that they conform to all of the relevant safety and health regulations.

Legionnaire’s Disease

This disease is a serious lung ailment that is caused by breathing in small droplets of water that contain Legionella bacteria. The symptoms of Legionnaire’s Disease include muscle pain, chills and a high fever. Once the bacteria starts to infiltrate your lungs, you will experience chest pains, breathing difficulties and a persistent cough. However, this is very similar to a lot of other lung-related illnesses, so it might be difficult for a doctor to diagnose at first.

Figuring out the recent places you have visited will help to make a diagnosis and if your doctor suspects Legionnaire’s Disease you can take a urine test to make sure. The disease can be treated and usually requires a course of antibiotics, whether taken orally or via a drip in your arm. Depending on how severe your particular case is, your treatment might take a week or several weeks.

Legionnaire’s Disease becomes more dangerous when it infects people with pre-existing health conditions. In some cases, the disease can lead to serious problems that will affect you for the rest of your life. It could cause your lungs or your kidneys to stop working properly – or it could cause your body to go into septic shock. This is when the infection spreads into your blood. In the year 2010, 38 people in England and Wales died of Legionnaire’s Disease.

What Conditions Promote the Growth of Legionella?

This bacteria tends to grow in water systems when they have the right conditions. First of all, if the water temperature is between 20 and 45 degrees Celsius, this is the ideal temperature for the bacteria to flourish. Also, if the system spreads breathable droplets such as the aerosol created by a cooling tower – this can put workers and the public at risk.

Systems that store or recirculate water are more at risk, as well as systems that have a source of food for the bacteria such as fouling, sludge or scale. Legionella can affect spa pools, cooling towers, hot and cold water systems, air washers, humidifiers, indoor ornamental fountains and much more.

How to Prevent Legionella Bacteria

If you are the employer or the landlord in control of the premises, it is your responsibility to prevent against legionella bacteria. You must take charge of protecting the health and safety of your employees and the public and take the right precautions to reduce the risk.

The first step is to perform a risk assessment, which will help you to understand your water systems and identify whether or not they are likely to create conditions where legionella can grow. Your risk assessment should look carefully at all potential risk sources and the controls currently in place to manage the risks.

Also, you should always be recording and monitoring the results of all inspections and the records should be retained for as long as they remain current. Once the risk assessment is complete, you will need to appoint someone who is competent and trained in health and safety who can manage and control the health and safety duties effectively.

Here are some more important tips that you should know about managing the risk of Legionella in the workplace:

  • Your key priority is to see if you can replace your high-risk system with one that has a lower risk – for example swapping a dry air-cooled system for a wet cooling tower.
  • It is important to ensure that the release of the water spray is always properly controlled.
  • Also, you should avoid water temperatures and conditions that are ideal for the growth of legionella. This is also true for the growth of other bacteria and micro-organisms.
  • Water should never be allowed to stagnate in your system. Pipe lengths should be kept as short as possible and any redundant pipework should be removed.
  • Make sure that your water fittings and materials are approved by the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme and that they do not encourage the growth of this harmful bacteria.
  • Always make sure that the water in the system and the components of the system are as clean as possible and are maintained regularly.
  • You might want to also consider treating your water so that you can kill the legionella and limit its ability to spread.

Legionella Training

When it comes to industries that are at risk for Legionnaires Disease, it is very important that all employers and employees have the right health and safety training.

Legionella awareness training or an introduction to legionella and its control will help to identify the risks of Legionella bacteria and give organisations the information that they need to create thorough safety policies regarding this health issue. There are many relevant health and safety courses offered throughout the county.

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