Keeping everyone in your school safe from harm is a key priority. But when a potential threat can’t be seen, what can you do to limit the risks?
Why worry about legionella?
Legionnaires’ disease is caused by the bacterium Legionella Pneumophila, plus related bacteria, and is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia which can affect anybody – but which principally affects those who are already in poor health and susceptible because of age, illness, immunosuppression, or if you are a smoker, and more than 50 years of age.
Legionella bacteria can also cause less serious illnesses which are not fatal or permanently debilitating. The collective term used to cover the group of diseases caused by Legionella bacteria is Legionellosis. It is normally contracted by inhaling legionella bacteria, either in tiny droplets of water (aerosols) or in droplet nuclei (the particles left after the water has evaporated) contaminated with legionella, deep into the lungs.
There is evidence that the disease may also be contracted by inhaling legionella bacteria following ingestion of contaminated water by susceptible individuals. Person-to-person spread of the disease has not been documented. Any water system that has the right environmental conditions could potentially be a source for legionella bacteria growth.
There is a reasonably foreseeable legionella risk in your water system if:
Water is stored or re-circulated as part of your system
The water temperature in all or some part of the system is between 20-45°C
It is possible for water droplets to be produced and dispersed.
There are sources of nutrients such as rust, sludge, scale and organic matters
The conditions are likely to encourage bacteria to multiply
Who is the ‘dutyholder’?
In a school, the duty holder is likely to be either the employer or those with responsibility for the premises – therefore, the duty holder will vary depending upon the status of the school and who continues to maintain the premises. Schools converting to academy status often do not realise that they automatically assume the role of dutyholder and compliance levels can quickly deteriorate. Assessing the risk The dutyholder is responsible for ensuring that a suitable and sufficient assessment is carried out to identify and assess the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria from activities and water systems on the school’s premises.
He/she is also responsible for any precautionary measures that might be needed. The dutyholder must also ensure that the person who carries out the risk assessment and provides advice on prevention and control of exposure, is competent to do so. Where a school has very low-risk water systems1, it may be possible for an employee to carry out the risk assessment, providing they have enough knowledge and training to do so. In all likelihood, there will be a need to appoint an external contractor to undertake the assessment.
Legionella Risk Assessment
The first step in the control and management of Legionella is to undertake a Legionella Risk Assessment. To do this you need a competent person or company to carry out the assessment. GES Water Ltd are accredited with UKAS 17020 Legionella Assessment. The risk assessment will cover every aspect of your water systems and identify the level of risk and provide the basis of a control and management programme to minimise any problems. UKAS 17020 Accredited Legionella Risk Assessment is fast becoming the bench required for building managers.
Why have a UKAS 17020 Accredited Legionella Risk Assessment?
The UKAS accreditation process determines, in the public interest, the technical competence and integrity of organisations offering testing, inspection, calibration and certification services.
UKAS is the only body recognised by Government to assess these types of organisations against internationally recognised standards, and it does so across all market sectors by offering a transparent and consistent approach which builds business and consumer confidence.
It therefore provides an independent and authoritative declaration that the organisation carrying out the risk assessment has the staff, facilities, technical expertise, management systems and track record to undertake the activity professionally and competently.
As an UKAS 17020 Accredited Company we at GES Water must demonstrate that:
Risk assessments are carried out independently and impartially. UKAS looks for sufficient safeguards to ensure that links to other bodies do not influence the risk assessment or any subsequent recommendations
Integrity is being maintained by all staff at all levels through contractual obligation to written codes of conduct. Such safeguards are necessary to ensure that inspections are undertaken with sufficient impartiality and that recommendations are appropriate to given situations.
This accreditation represents the commitment of GES Water Ltd to quality and consistency in all we do.
Higher Risk Hot and Cold Water Systems in schools and educational properties.
Here are some systems that require much more Legionella risk control management: Jacuzzi, Spa Baths, Swimming Pools, Water Softening Equipment, Thermostatic Mixing Valves
Main Reference and Guidance Documents for the Control of Legionella
Legionnaires' disease - A brief guide for duty holders
The control of legionella bacteria in water systems L8. Approved Code of Practice and guidance on regulations
Health and safety in care homes HSG 220 2nd edition
Health and safety guidance HSG274 Part 2 Hot and Cold water service