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Legionnaires’ disease – Am I at risk?

Legionnaires’ Disease – Am I At Risk?

Brian Blunden, Property Marketing Services has kindly written Maylark an article to share regarding Legionella and the importance of performing a risk assessment.

What is legionnaires’ disease?

Legionellosis is the collective name given to the pneumonia-like illness caused by legionella bacteria. This includes the most serious legionnaires’ disease, as well as the similar but less serious conditions of Pontiac fever and Lochgoilhead fever. Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and everyone is susceptible to infection. However, some people are at higher risk, including:

  1. people over 45 years of age;
  2. smokers and heavy drinkers;
  3. people suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease; and
  4. anyone with an impaired immune system.

Where are legionella bacteria found?

The bacterium Legionella pneumophila and related bacteria are common in natural water sources such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs, but usually in low numbers. Since legionella bacteria are widespread in the environment, they may also contaminate and grow in purpose-built water systems such as cooling towers, evaporative condensers, hot and cold water systems and whirlpool spas.

Sources for legionella bacteria growth

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:

  1. water is stored or re-circulated as part of your system;
  2. the water temperature in all or some part of the system is between 20 – 45 °C;
  3. there are sources of nutrients such as rust, sludge, scale and organic matters;
  4. the conditions are likely to encourage bacteria to multiply;
  5. it is possible for water droplets to be produced and, if so, if they can be dispersed over a wide area, eg showers and aerosols from cooling towers;
  6. it is likely that tenants, visitors etc are more susceptible to infection due to age, illness, a weakened immune system and whether they could be exposed to any contaminated water droplets.

The most common places where legionella can be found include purpose-built water systems, cooling towers, evaporative condensers, hot and cold water systems and spa pools. There are also a number of other systems that may pose a risk to exposure to legionella, eg humidifiers, air washers, emergency showers, indoor ornamental fountains etc.

What are my duties as a landlord?

Under general health and safety law, as an employer or person in control of a premises (eg a landlord), you have health and safety duties and need to take suitable precautions to prevent or control the risk of your tenants being exposed to legionella.

Carrying out a risk assessment is your responsibility and will help you to establish any potential risks and implement measures to either eliminate or control risks. You may be competent to carry out the assessment yourself but, if not, you should ask someone with the necessary skills to conduct a risk assessment.

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