Controlling Legionella bacteria during the COVID-19 outbreak
What is Legionella?
Legionella bacteria are naturally occurring and common in many water systems, including cooling towers, spa pools, hot and cold water systems, jet washers and misting systems.
The bacteria can cause a type of pneumonia called Legionnaires’ disease, which can be fatal. It is contracted by inhaling small droplets of water that contain the bacteria. The droplets are inhaled from the air or from aerosols.
Why is it important to maintain my water system during the COVID-19 outbreak?
Legionella could grow to dangerous levels
Legionella can grow to high levels in water that is stored anywhere in a system between 20–50 degrees Celsius. It is more likely to grow where there is stagnant water and a poorly maintained system.
For example, water systems that have not been used for some time will have water sitting in pipes and storage tanks at a temperature that will allow Legionella bacteria to grow. So if your business is closed or partially closed because of COVID-19, Legionella bacteria could grow to dangerous levels.
You are legally obliged to manage the risk from Legionella bacteria
It is legal requirement for employers, business owners and landlords to manage the risks of exposure to Legionella at all times. The relevant law is The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
It is very important that you manage and keep all water systems safe whilst closed or partially closed for the future health and safety of staff, visitors and customers.
The procedures you follow now will have an impact on how soon you can open your facilities without causing harm to health.
What should I do to maintain my water system?
You should be thinking about this and taking action now.
Ideally water systems should have been flushed regularly and maintained throughout. But there are still options to make sure you are safe to reopen.
For detailed guidance please refer to the resources below.
- Health and Safety Executive's webpages on Legionella and Legionnaires' disease.
- Health and Safety Executive's guidance on the control of legionella bacteria in hot and cold water systems.
- Health and Safety Executive's frequently asked questions about Legionnaires' disease.
- Chartered Institute of Enviornmental Health's guidance on Legionnaire's disease.