Legionella Risk Assessment for Landlords and Business
Legionella bacteria can cause severe health conditions including the potentially fatal Legionnaires’ disease. In the UK every business, regardless of size, is legally required to conduct a legionella risk assessment to identify potential issues and to keep employees, customers, and others safe. This applies to all landlords and business owners.
The risk assessment highlights potential dangers and the steps that should be taken to reduce levels of bacteria where required.
Legionella bacteria is recognised as being preventable as it can be kept under control by taking suitable precautions – there are stiff penalties for businesses that do not take the required steps.
What is Legionnaires’ disease?
Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria.
It can be fatal in up to 30% of cases.
Antibiotic treatment should be given as soon as possible to attain the best outcome – even prior to confirmation of the disease.
It is vital for landlords and business owners to manage their properties to prevent legionella from spreading and causing people to fall ill.
Hiring an expert to undertake a risk assessment provides peace of mind that all steps are being taken to minimise the risk.
Landlords legal obligations on legionella risk assessment
Even though many rented properties will carry a low risk from legionella, landlords must still carry out risk assessments.
While there is no such thing as a legionella test certificate, landlords must be able to prove they have risk assessed their property and are controlling the highlighted risks to keep people safe.
Is a legionella risk assessment a legal requirement?
Under UK health and safety law business owners, property managers and landlords are legally required to consider the legionella risk in their properties or businesses.
A risk assessment is the best and most effective way to achieve this.
Once completed the assessment report should be kept up to date, reviewed periodically or when any changes are made to the water systems.
Is legionella testing a legal requirement?
It is important to remember that not all properties require legionella testing by law.
On sites with large and complex water systems, particularly those with cooling towers, swimming pools and hot tubs, routine testing should be carried out at least every three months.
Simple domestic water systems may not require any testing at all, but it is recommended under certain circumstances.
Testing confirms whether risk management steps are working and is therefore a good barometer of the approach taken.
Legionella risk assessments for large businesses
As a rule of thumb, the larger the business, the more complex the water systems are likely to be.
A business is also likely to have several premises that must be individually risk assessed.
Hiring a professional to handle multiple sites and complex requirements provides reassurance that the assessment is properly undertaken.
They can also conduct testing at regular intervals where required.
Legionella risk assessments for hospitals and healthcare organisations
Hospitals and healthcare settings naturally include people who are at greater risk of developing Legionnaires’ disease.
The elderly, the infirm, and those with ongoing and complex medical conditions are more likely to develop the condition if exposed to higher levels of Legionella bacteria.
Hospitals, care homes, and other similar buildings are also more likely to have large, complex hot and cold water systems.
These may carry greater risks such as disused piping and equipment, storage tanks in multiple locations, and taps and showers that are not often used.
A risk assessment should highlight all potential danger areas and list steps for combating them and minimising the risk levels.
Legionella risk assessments for landlords and property managers
Property managers and landlords may manage anything from one property to multiple and complex properties and locations.
Typically, a straightforward risk assessment can be conducted in a simple, single residence by the landlord and no further steps may need to be taken.
However, the more properties a landlord has and the more complex each location is, the more responsibility it places on their shoulders.
Meeting the legal requirements of risk assessing and managing legionella risk is much easier when hiring a professional to perform a legionella risk assessment… and this may include testing where appropriate.
Are letting agents misrepresenting the facts?
Some letting agents are informing landlords of the requirement to produce a “Legionella Testing Certificate” before they can rent out their property. This is incorrect… The HSE has confirmed there is no such thing.
All landlords must risk assess their property (or properties) for Legionella bacteria.
However, for most domestic properties this is a simple process that can be handled independently.
Only those with multiple properties or properties with complex designs and rooms for rent may benefit from hiring a professional to handle all risk assessment needs and testing for them.
Relevant legislation and guidance
In the UK the legal requirement for a risk assessment is underpinned by primary health and safety legislation including the Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).
However, it is dealt with more specifically, and in detail by the Health & Safety Executive in their Approved Code of Practice ACOP L8 dealing with the control of Legionella bacteria in water systems, and their supporting Health and Safety Guidance HSG274.
The HSE’s ACOP L8 calls for … “A suitable and sufficient assessment must be carried out to identify and assess the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria from work activities and water systems on the premises and any precautionary measures needed …”
The latest, fourth edition of the HSE’s ACOP L8 can be ordered direct from the HSE website if you require a hard copy, or downloaded from our website here…
In the UK, the following legislation covers your legal duties for conducting a legionella risk assessment:
The Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974 – guidelines highlighting the duties laid down for employers to follow to ensure a safer workplace [http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1974/37/contents]
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – covers the management of risks to employees and others in the workplace [http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1999/3242/contents/made]
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) – covers potential health hazards created by certain substances, how to discover what they are, and how to mitigate those risks [http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/basics.htm]
How often should a legionella risk assessment be carried out?
The risk assessment should be considered a living document and used to guide the risk management process.
We recommend all businesses review their assessments at least every 24 months.
The frequency should be increased if there are changes to key staff, if changes are made to the water systems, if the water treatment programme fails, or if increased levels of bacteria are found.
Carrying out a legionella risk assessment
As the building owner, manager, or landlord, you can carry out a legionella risk assessment yourself if you have the skills to do it… you must be competent in this area of risk assessment.
However, you should leave this to a professional if it is a large or complex site or if you don’t have the necessary training, experience and knowledge to do a thorough job.
Who can carry out a risk assessment?
In most domestic cases, no special training is needed to conduct a legionella risk assessment.
The person performing the assessment only needs to be competent enough to do so.
Competency means the individual must have proper knowledge of health and safety requirements.
They should also have the appropriate skills and experience to complete the task properly.
This person may be the legionella responsible person, the duty holder, the business owner, or the building owner.
Some people prefer to hire an expert to ensure all these areas are covered if they are not knowledgeable enough to conduct the risk assessment themselves.
Can you carry out a risk assessment yourself?
If you own a small property with a simple hot and cold water system, you may decide to conduct the risk assessment yourself.
The resulting report may indicate there is no need for testing and that simple steps can be taken to minimise all risks.
Keeping legionella risk assessment records
Record keeping is important when assessing legionella risk in the workplace.
UK law states all businesses with five or more employees must keep written records, and these should cover:
All legionella risk assessments and reports
Any and all actions taken to manage and control the risks
If you have fewer than five employees, we would still advise you to keep all records and assessments.
They provide evidence of all steps taken and a useful document to refer to in future.
Reviewing your legionella risk assessment
You should review your legionella risk assessment at least every two years as a minimum.
More complex water systems and higher risk situations that have been assessed should be re-assessed far more often, i.e. every three months if cooling towers or other complex systems are involved.
Even a straightforward risk assessment of a simple water system should be reviewed once more if any change occurs to any part of that system.
* Dupal UK has no affiliation with Legionella Control International but we chose to publish content who might benefit some of our site visitors. For further information about Legionella Risk Assessment please follow the link above.