The Coronavirus has changed the lives of many of us in 2020. The death total is now greater than 60,000 in the UK. We have lost loved ones, and we have had restrictions placed upon us which has changed our way of living and working.
Offices previously hives of activity, are now in many cases operating at reduced capacity or closed altogether.
General hygiene has been thrust into the limelight via the frequent handwashing and application of alcohol gels. However, the reduced office capacities caused by many of us now working from home, may have increased additional risk elsewhere.
The symptoms of legionnaires disease, which is caused by the legionella pneumophila bacteria, have become fairly well known since its initial identified outbreak at the legionnaires convention at the Belle Vue Hotel in Philadelphia in July 1976:
Fever, Chills, Headaches, Cough, Breathlessness and Diarrhoea.
Many of these are of course similar to the symptoms of Covid-19. Therefore while we attempt to minimise the risk from Covid-19 ,we must be careful not to increase the risk of infection from legionella.
Legionella risk is heightened by persons with compromised immune systems. Covid-19 fatalities have been shown in many cases to be from secondary infections. Therefore it has been suggested that persons recovering from Covid-19 are susceptible to a secondary infections for some months after initial diagnosis.
As many of us may have contracted Covid-19 and been asymptomatic, we may be at a heightened risk from other infections, such as legionella.
The Approved Code of Practice L8 document applies in any undertaking involving a work activity where water is used or stored; and there is a means of creating and transmitting water droplets, creating a reasonably foreseeable risk.
The duty holder is responsible for ensuring a suitable and sufficient risk assessment is carried out. Should a reasonably foreseeable risk from legionella exist, and it be reasonably practicable to prevent exposure or control that risk, then a responsible person should be appointed to undertake the measures required to comply with legislation.
This assessment should be reviewed whenever there is a significant change. Such as a reduction in the usage of a water system and the building.
Reviewing the assessment may find additional control measures are required due to lower usage, such as:
Additional flushing (drinks machines, kitchen outlets, outside bib taps)
Increased Inspection frequency (water tanks getting warm due to lower usage)
Refresh the training for staff involved in carrying out control tasks
Water sampling may be advisable for potential areas of concern. For example, swimming & spa pools not in frequent use in gyms and hotels, should still be sampled as per the HSG282 guidance to prevent them becoming a greater risk.
By being proactive we can prevent a potential hazard becoming a very real risk as this time of significant change.