Legionellosis Risk Assessments

AdobeStock_283614275 LRA

Legislation – Health and Safety Law – Legionellosis Risk Assessment

Legionnaires’ disease: The control of legionella bacteria in water systems. Approved Code of Practice gives specific information on the health and safety law that applies. In brief, general duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (the HSW Act)2 extend to risks from legionella bacteria, which may arise from work activities. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 provide a broad framework for controlling health and safety at work. More specifically, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH)3 provide a framework of duties designed to assess, prevent or control the risks from hazardous substances, including biological agents such as legionella, and take suitable precautions

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. They must take suitable precautions to prevent or control the risk of exposure to legionella. They also need to either understand, or appoint somebody competent who knows how to identify and assess sources of risk, manage those risks, prevent or control any risks, keep records and carry out any other legal duties they may have.

The L8 (Fourth edition) Published 2013

This fourth edition of the ACOP and guidance on regulations contains revisions to simplify and clarify the text. The main changes are removing Part 2, the technical guidance, which is now published separately in HSG274 (PART 1, 2 & 3).

Carrying out a legionella risk assessment and ensuring it remains up to date is required under health and safety law and is a key duty when managing the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria.

If the risk assessment concludes there is no reasonably foreseeable risk or the risks are insignificant and are managed properly to comply with the law, the assessment is complete. Although no further action may be required at this stage, existing controls must be maintained. The assessment of risk is an ongoing process and not merely a paper exercise. Dutyholders should arrange to review the assessment regularly and specifically when there is reason to suspect it is no longer valid. An indication of when to review the assessment and what to consider should be recorded and this may result from, eg:

  • a change to the water system or its use;
  • a change to the use of the building where the system is installed;
  • new information is available about risks or control measures;
  • the results of checks indicating that control measures are no longer effective;
  • changes to key personnel;
  • a case of legionnaires’ disease/legionellosis associated with the system.

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 may be between 20–45 °C;
  • there are deposits that can support bacterial growth, such as rust, sludge, scale and organic matter;
  • it is possible for water droplets to be produced and, if so, whether they can be dispersed;
  • it is likely that any of your employees, contractors, visitors etc could be exposed to any contaminated water droplets.

If no such assessment has been carried out; or if there is reason to suspect it is no longer valid, we would advise that this undertaking be instigated as a matter of urgency.

BS 8580-1:2019 – Risk Assessments for Legionella Control

In January 2019, BSI Standards Limited released the new, updated BS 8580-1:2019 Water Quality – Risk Assessments for Legionella Control – Code of Practice’.  This code of practice applies to risk assessments undertaken on premises, plant and systems and where control measures may have been implemented. First published in 2010, the document provides guidance to duty holders, responsible persons, competent persons and risk assessors on the assessment of risk from man-made water systems, ensuring a suitable and sufficient risk assessment is undertaken.

This revision now aligns the standard with HSE ACoP L8 and its associated
guidance documents.

Legionella risk assessment is a legal requirement, making this standard invaluable to anyone responsible for the safe management of water systems, especially within hospitals, the wider healthcare industry, leisure centres and schools.

ph Water Technologies ‘Legionella Risk Assessments’ ensure compliance with current UK regulation and incorporate the requirements of the BS 8580-1:2019.

The BS8580-1:2019 takes on and aligns with the information provided in L8 as part of a general update but there are a number of key changes:

COMPETENCE OF THE RISK ASSESSOR – Section 5.1. The competence of the risk assessor is of ‘paramount importance and should match the complexity of the systems being assessed’. Risk assessors are expected to have no commercial, financial, or other pressures that could compromise their integrity and the risk assessment findings. A risk assessor can decline to undertake or issue a report if insufficient information has been provided to assess risk successfully; reports can be issued in draft if needed. It is the responsibility of the duty holder to check the competence and independence of the risk assessor and ensure that all information available and access is provided to all water systems to allow the risk assessment to be completed.

RISK ASSESSMENT REPORTING – Section 9 has been re-written to further emphasise that risk assessments must be clear, easy to read, free from superfluous information and focus on the systems that have been assessed. BS 8580 states that remedial actions should be high priority, where management roles of the systems being assessed are not being fulfilled. The preparation of a written scheme is not part of the risk assessing process.  BS 8580 outlines that a risk assessor must confirm the presence and relevance of the written scheme in place and make recommendations for improvement, but the risk assessment should not include a written scheme.  If a client requires one, it must be commissioned separately.

For more information please visit our downloads page, HSE Legionnaires’ Technical guidance, or email us.

RISK REVIEW & RE-ASSESSMENT – Section 10 has been made clearer outlining that a policy of planned reassessments must be in place – Reassessments must be a new report, and not simply an adaptation of previous reports.

EVALUATION OF RISK – Section 8. A risk assessors must assess if the residual risk is as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP). Control measures that have been put in place must be regularly reviewed to ensure they are not ‘grossly disproportionate’ and unjustified.

ANNEXES – These have been revised and updated to reflect content in HSG274 and HTM04-01. There is more detailed and clearer guidance within Annexe B for Hot & Cold-Water Systems. Annexe C for Open Evaporative Cooling Systems and Annex D for Spa Pools have been completely re-written. In each of these annexes, the competence of the risk assessor is stressed as fundamental to the risk assessing process. Annexe E on Other Systems is more detailed and contains new information on humidifiers and thermal processing in the food industry.

BS 8580 has been renamed to BS 8580-1 as there is a plan to provide a British Standard for Pseudomonas aeruginosa risk assessments, undertaken in high-risk healthcare environments, and this is expected to be named BS 8580-2.