Over the past few years, instances of illness and death due to outbreaks of Legionnaires Disease, caused by Legionella bacteria, have appeared on the news and in the press. While this may have raised public awareness of the risks of Legionella, a duty of care on employers has been imposed by UK legislation since the mid-70’s. Employers in the residential built environment such as those in control of premises, including landlords, are required to understand the health risks associated with legionella. Duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA) extend to risks from legionella bacteria, which may arise from work activities.
Organisations are required to assess the risks posed by systems and equipments containing and/or using water to enable, ‘….appropriate control measures to be put in place to protect the health and safety of employees and members of the public who could be affected by work activities.’ The person appointed to carry out the risk assessment may be the duty holder/Responsible Person, or an employee of the duty holder/Responsible Person, but in many cases it is an external contractor. In each case, they should be able to demonstrate that they have specialist knowledge of Legionella bacteria, relevant water treatment and the water system(s) to be assessed, and are competent to carry out any necessary surveys, measurements and sampling.