Care Homes & Legionella Risks
Posted on 8th September 2022
Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia. It is normally contracted by inhaling tiny, airborne droplets containing viable legionella bacteria. Although everyone is susceptible to infection, the risk increases with age and some people are at a higher risk, such as people over 45, smokers, heavy drinkers, people suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease, diabetes, lung and heart disease and anyone with an impaired immune system.
Water systems in care premises, with residents likely to be particularly vulnerable, need consideration. Although legionella bacteria is widespread in natural water sources, outbreaks of the illness occur from exposure to legionella growing in purpose-built systems where water is maintained at a temperature high enough to encourage growth (between 20–45 °C) and where there are nutrients that support bacterial growth such as rust, sludge, scale, organic matter, and biofilms.
The bacteria are dormant below 20 °C and do not survive above 60 °C. Airborne water droplets are created by water systems such as hot and cold-water services, atomisers, wet air conditioning plant, spa baths and hydrotherapy baths. When managing water temperatures to control legionella in care homes, you should consider potential scald risks.
Key Points to Consider
Have you assessed the risks and put suitable and effective controls in place?
Do you have access to a competent person who can manage the risks from legionella?
Can you ensure that your system remains clean, at the correct temperatures and there is no stagnation of water?
Are the frequency of temperature checks and controls in line with HSE guidance?
Other Main Issues
Scalding potential of hot water outlets. Need for TMV’s (Mixing taps).
Infrequently used hot and cold water outlets. Homes tend to be excessively warm for the wellbeing of the residents so cold water pipework can easily become too hot (greater than 20°C) and can be an ideal breeding ground for legionella bacteria. Also many homes have bedrooms with en-suites which are not used enough; therefore temperature monitoring and flushing becomes a key control parameter to minimise Legionella growth.
Security can be a major issue if vulnerable residents are present. Outsourced labour, if not vetted or trained correctly can trigger safeguarding risks.
Due to high workloads, in-house maintenance staff do not have time to carry out consistent legionella control tasks.
If you have any questions please call our friendly team of experts on 0800 121 8808 or click here!
Tagged as: aylesbury, bacteria, bedfordshire, care home, carehome, carehomes, hertfordshire, Legionella, riskassessment, risks, Scalding, waterhygiene
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