Legionella is a bacterium which can cause diseases such as the very serious - and sometimes fatal - Legionnaires’ disease, but also Pontiac and Lochgoilhead fevers. Unfortunately we’re all at risk from Legionella although there are higher risk groups of people including:
How common is Legionella and where can it be found?
- Those over 45 years of age
- Those suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease
- People who smoke
- Heavy drinkers
- People with diabetes, lung or heart disease
- Anyone with an impaired immune system
There are around 50 species of Legionella with the bacterium Legionella pneumophila causing most illness. It can commonly be found in natural water such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs, as well as man-made water systems such as spa pools, hot tubs, jacuzzis, cooling towers, hot and cold water systems and air conditioning units.
Typically Legionella exists in small numbers which should not pose a threat of illness. However, depending on the conditions, the can bacteria grow which could result in a higher risk of Legionnaires’ disease. This is why it is essential that relevant measures are introduced which will control the risk.
What causes Legionella to increase to dangerous levels?
There are a number of conditions that can encourage the growth of Legionella bacteria to levels which could pose a hazard. These include:
Legionella risk management
- If the water in the system (or any part of it) has a temperature between 20-45°C
- If water is stored and/or recirculated
- Where breathable water droplets can be generated and scattered, for example in a cooling tower
- Where there is build-up of something that can host bacteria such as scale, sludge, or any other organic matter
Under general health and safety law, dutyholders including employers or those in control of premises, must ensure the health and safety of their employees or others who may be affected by their undertaking. Adequate precautions must be put in place to prevent or control the risk of exposure to Legionella.
The first and critical step is to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment to identify and assess the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria from work activities and water systems on the premises and any precautionary measures needed.
DAF Risk Consulting can provide this assessment; just give us a call on 01273 437 025 to discuss how we can help you.