Businesses Warned Of Legionnaires’ Disease Risk In Water Supply
The Chartered Institute for Environmental Health (CIEH) has issued guidance to businesses reopening once lockdown restrictions are lifted regarding Legionnaires’ disease, which is caused by legionella bacteria that can form in water systems that have been unused for long periods of time.
Legionnaires’ disease can develop by breathing in droplets of contaminated water in the air, causing a dry cough, fever and pneumonia. According to the Independent, there were 295 recorded cases of the disease between January and October last year, despite the fact that many businesses were closed for most of the year.
Advice from the CIEH includes flushing cold water systems with fresh water as well as increasing the temperature of hot water systems to above 60 degrees C. And cafes, shops and any other service that may have been closed for some time are also being encouraged to carry out safety checks to avoid increasing disease risks.
President of the CIEH Julie Barratt said: “Whether you run a hairdressing salon or a clothing shop, it is important to take a few simple steps to prevent the risks prior to business reopening by flushing through water systems, especially any water tanks, at the appropriate temperatures.”
In line with health and safety laws, business owners, employers and landlords have to manage the risks of exposure to Legionella bacteria, and owners and operators of onsite water systems must keep them safe to protect the health and safety of both staff members and visitors.
It’s possible that warm external temperatures and reduced use of water systems may have caused an increased risk of conditions that promote the growth of Legionella bacteria. With simple hot or cold water systems, reviewing them should be straightforward and the main objective is to prevent stagnation, keeping temperatures outside of 20-50 degrees C.
Aim to make sure that water stored in tanks is turned over every 24 hours and that water is moved through pipework and outlets at least once a week to help prevent stagnation.
Even a simple action like running a tap can generate potentially harmful water droplets, so it’s important to flush the system in a safe way by running taps at low velocity or flushing shower heads out by submerging them underwater in a container before running the water..
The most common sources of legionella are in systems like spa pools, cooling tower and evaporative condensers, and hot and cold water systems, but there are also risks associated with humidifiers, emergency showers, air washers, indoor ornamental fountains and so on.
All systems will need to have a risk assessment carried out, but elaborate control measures may not always be required. If the risks are low and properly managed, it is likely that you will be compliant with the law.
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