Legionella is bacteria that thrives in certain conditions in natural water systems, like ponds, streams and rivers, as well as in some purpose-built water systems, such as cooling towers, spa pools evaporative condensers, as well as hot and cold water systems where the temperature of the water is kept high enough to encourage the legionella bacteria to grow and spread. So, how do you identify legionella?
What Is Legionella?
The legionella bacteria is normally found in natural water sources like ponds, lakes, rivers and streams, but they can also be found in purpose-built water systems, too. There are certain conditions in which the bacteria will thrive:
- Temperature – when the water is maintained at a temperature between 20°C and 40°C, it becomes idea for legionella bacteria to grow. However, in water temperatures under 20°C, the bacteria remains dormant. In contrast, water temperatures over 50°C or 60°C will kill the bacteria in about 2 hours, or 2 minutes respectively.
- Stagnation – often found in natural water sources or pipework that is redundant or not been used for a long time, stagnation can present the perfect environment for legionella bacteria to thrive. Although the water temperature may not be as conducive, the presence of micro-organisms from sludge, scale, rust and other stagnant growth more than makes up for it.
- Nutrients – leading on from stagnation is the provision of nutrients for the bacteria to feed on. Like every living thing on the planet, legionella bacteria need food and the nutrients provided by Biofilms – the collective of micro-organisms – is ideal.
How To Identify Legionella
The legionella bacteria is hazardous to human health when it is inhaled via sprays of contaminated water, like showers, hosepipes or spa pools, and can lead to Legionnaires Disease which can potentially be fatal.
The early symptoms of Legionnaires Disease are similar to those of a cold or flu, which is why it can be misdiagnosed. Common symptoms include coughing, finding it difficult to breathe, a fever, aching muscles and confusion, as well as diarrhoea in extreme cases. However, if it is identified early and treated with antibiotics as soon as possible, the survival rate is very high.
Do I Need To Get A Legionella Risk Assessment?
Business owners, employers, property managers and landlords are legally obliged to ensure a legionella risk assessment is carried out regularly (this must be done by professional assessors) in accordance with certain legislation:
- The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974
- Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999 (COSHH)
- Notification of Cooling Towers & Evaporative Condensers Regulations 1992
- Reporting of Injuries, Diseases & Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR)
- Safety Representatives & Safety Committee Regulations 1977
- Health & Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996
A legionella risk assessment will identify potential areas of risk within a building as well as the facilities that serve the building, premises or workplace. The assessor, who must be legally qualified and experienced with identifying and managing legionella bacteria, will also specify where action needs to be taken. They will also recommend the necessary protocols and procedures that need to be implemented by the business owner, employer, landlord or property manager to establish legionella risk controls that are robust enough to prevent legionella bacteria from becoming dominant.
At Swiftclean, our highly experienced, professional legionella risk assessors will conduct a legionella risk assessment and once completed, will ensure that all reports are maintained, updated and reviewed on a regular basis.