Every year hundreds of people contract Legionnaires’ disease, according to Public Health England, and in some cases it is fatal. This is why the Legionella Risk Assessment exists – to reduce risk and keep everyone safe.
If you are a landlord, or own a holiday letting property, you need to know about your liability regarding Legionella. You are legally responsible for providing a safe environment in any property you own. That includes having standard gas certificates, Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), and keeping a record of your Legionella Risk Assessment checks.
Unfortunately, if someone occupying your building is affected by Legionnaires’ disease, you need to prove you took the necessary steps to assess and prevent it. Should the worst happen, ignorance is not a legal defense.
What is Legionella?
Legionella bacteria are commonly found in small amounts in lakes, ponds and rivers. They cause a range of diseases, including Legionnaires’ disease, which is the most serious. If these bacteria get into your domestic water storage tanks, swimming pool, air-conditioning unit, or condenser, they rapidly colonise in the warm, wet conditions. If the bacteria are inhaled in the vapour, they enter the lungs and cause a type of pneumonia. For anyone with existing health conditions, this can be extremely serious.
The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include:
- A persistent cough
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
You should contact a doctor immediately if anyone displays these health issues.
What is a Legionella Risk Assessment?
A Legionella Risk Assessment is a practical appraisal of your property to check whether or not the water storage areas may be harbouring Legionella bacteria. It requires a dated written report which should be filed as evidence that either:
- Your property did not have any high-risk areas for Legionella
- You have taken necessary steps to reduce the risk of harbouring Legionella bacteria
Who Needs a Legionella Risk Assessment?
Every rental property needs to have a Legionella Risk Assessment. While not currently a legal requirement, failure to take this simple measure can have serious consequences. It is particularly important after you have work done on any water systems in your property.
You will be held legally responsible should anyone contract Legionnaires’ disease due to the condition of your water storage facilities. Therefore, it makes sense to get a Legionella Risk Assessment done for peace of mind, and for the safety of your tenants. A professional assessment is simple and affordable if you do not have the knowledge and understanding to do it yourself.
Even if you own your own home or business premises, having a Legionella Risk Assessment is a smart move, especially if you have a swimming pool, hot tub, sauna, or steam room. It is particularly recommended if someone in your household is considered at higher risk of exposure to Legionella. These include:
- Babies and children
- Heavy smokers
- Those with a weakened immune system
- Those aged 50+
- Individuals with existing chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, respiratory allergies, COPD and lung disease
When Were Legionella Risk Assessments Introduced?
Legionella Risk Assessments are not a new idea. They were first outlined as a legal code of practice for landlords as part of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Work Act 1974, and the guidelines have been revised several times since. They outline the responsibility of landlords to recognise and minimise the risks caused by Legionella bacteria in domestic water storage tanks.
Full information is available online from the HSE L8 Approved Code of Practice.
What Does a Legionella Risk Assessment Involve?
The Legionella Risk Assessment must be done by someone who understands the dangers of Legionella and can identify any areas of elevated risk.
- A fully documented list (in writing) of all areas of water storage in the home
- A list of people in the property who are vulnerable
- Identification of the areas that are particularly likely to harbour Legionella bacteria (if any). These include old pipes, tanks that have accumulations of limescale or rust, and water that is stored at 20-45°C.
- What steps have been implemented to fix any identified areas of high risk. If necessary, a water sample should be sent to a laboratory for professional testing.
- An ongoing protocol for future checks and actions. These may include increasing the temperature of hot water storage tanks to 60°C and running the taps to clear the pipes if the property is left empty for a while.
Remember, all the above actions need to be written down and then filed for future reference.
Who Can Undertake a Legionella Risk Assessment?
If you feel you are not adequately knowledgeable or physically able to perform a written Legionella Risk Assessment, you can ask a local company like Nexus Energy Solutions to provide an assessment for you.
The low cost involved is well worth the peace of mind it provides. It will also show your tenants that you take the responsibility for their health extremely seriously.
It’s easy to request a quote for a Legionella Risk Assessment by filling in your details below: