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Legionella control covid-19 guidance for businesses


This guide provides information and guidance on practical measures you should put in place to protect you, your employees and other visitors/customers by minimising the risk of potential cases of pneumonia caused by the water-borne Legionella bacteria. Aerosolized water from systems containing Legionella can cause Legionnaires' disease.

Whilst water systems in businesses may not seem to be high on the priority list during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important ensure all water systems are managed safely at this time. Water systems that are not being used and maintained effectively are very likely to have increased levels of bacteria present, including the Legionella bacteria. Unless water systems are maintained, the closure of buildings due to COVID19 restrictions may result in the growth of Legionella to a level which may cause illness when buildings are re-opened. Please also note, the warmer summer months will lead to a greater proliferation of Legionella bacteria in water systems that are not being used or maintained.

Why this guidance?

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the closure of many buildings. Closure of buildings, parts of buildings or their restricted use, can increase the risk for Legionella growth in water systems and associated equipment if they are not managed adequately. Aerosolised water from systems containing Legionella can cause Legionnaires' disease to vulnerable persons. During the COVID- 19 pandemic there will be an increased number of people with greater susceptibility to Legionnaires' disease due to a compromised respiratory system during or after infection with the virus.

Why is this guidance important?

It is a legal requirement under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA) for employers, business owners and landlords to manage the risks of exposure to Legionella. It is very important that you manage and keep all water systems safe whilst closed or during partial shutdowns for the future health and safety of staff, customers and other visitors. The procedures you follow now will have an impact on how soon you can open your facilities without causing harm to health.

Who is this guidance document aimed at?

This guidance is aimed at individuals responsible and/or accountable for managing and maintaining a building and for local authority enforcement officers, as a source of reference. Under the Health and Safety Executive's Approved Code of Practice The control of Legionella bacteria in water systems (L8) (opens new window) a "competent person" is needed to manage your water system and ensure the system is safe when you re-open your business. This should be someone with sufficient authority, competence, knowledge of the system, and experience. It may be a combination of yourself, one or more workers and/or someone from outside your business.

This guidance should support those maintaining public buildings including offices, retail outlets, hairdressers, beauty salons, hotels, pubs, clubs, restaurants, sports centres/clubs, gyms, residential buildings, camping/caravan sites, cruise ships, and any other buildings with a water supply which may have been unused for some time during the COVID 19 lockdown. Volunteer-run premises need to be included. It is particularly important if your business has showers, sinks and basins, spa pools, fountains or other water features and other water outlets which may be infrequently used, where there is the potential for splashing and aerosols. The procedures you follow now will have an impact on how soon you can open your facilities without causing harm to health.

What should I do next?

Read through and follow the seven steps set out in this document and use the web links provided. If you are still unsure contact your insurance provider or a water systems maintenance specialist.

This guidance is not intended to cover complex water systems such as cooling towers, swimming pools, spa pools and other water systems. Specialist guidance is available and referred to in the How can I re-open safely immediately after shutdown? section.

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