And under UK law, your company is responsible for paying for any water you use and for the drainage of liquid waste from your premises.
This probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but there are other responsibilities of care that you must take into account when it comes to water cleanliness.
Your company is also responsible for controlling risks from the legionella bacteria. The HSE states that: “As an employer, or a person in control of the premises, you are responsible for health and safety and need to take the right precautions to reduce the risks of exposure to legionella.”
Legionella bacteria are carried on small droplets of water which can become airborne and be inhaled. If someone is infected with the legionella bacteria, they could go on to develop Legionnaires’ Disease which is potentially fatal, especially to older people and those with pre-existing health problems.
In order to control the risks and prevent a Legionnaires’ outbreak, it’s important to understand more about the bacterium and how it causes harm.
The conditions that allow the legionella bacteria to thrive are stagnant water systems that are between 20-45oC. In addition, deposits, such as sludge, rust, scale and organic matter, provide nutrients for the bacteria. In domestic homes, where we flush water through the system on a daily basis and the hot water tank is heated to high temperatures, the risk of legionella is extremely low.
The bacteria are most likely to be spread from systems that are not in constant use, and also from systems that produce fine droplets of water, which disperses the bacteria. Many outbreaks are traced to air conditioning plants where water is stored and recycled, but there have been cases where people have contracted Legionnaires’ from poorly maintained swimming pools, hot tubs, car washes and garden hose pipes.
HSE guidance outlines your company’s responsibilities with regard to the control of legionella. Your business needs to appoint a ‘responsible person’ to ensure control of the risk. The responsible person must have “sufficient authority, competence, skills and knowledge about the installation to ensure that all operational procedures are carried out in a timely and effective manner and implement the control measures and strategies, i.e. they are suitably informed, instructed, trained and assessed”.
You must take adequate steps to control and prevent the bacteria, as well as carrying out regular water tests. The frequency of tests will depend on a risk assessment and the type of system you have.
With more and more employees going back into the office after lockdown, it’s more important than ever to take steps to ensure that your staff are protected from the legionella bacteria. With water systems and air conditioning units lying unused for weeks or possibly months, at a time of year with ideal temperatures for the bacteria, it would be a good idea to do a legionella test as part of your reopening strategy.
Contact us for more information about Castle Water’s ensuring the safety of your water system.