Any businesses not fully up to speed with how their organisations could be hit by Legionnaire's disease would be well advised to review the risk it poses to their staff, visitors and wider public immediately.
That's the advice from Michael Slade, Managing Director of health and safety advisors
Bibby Consulting & Support, following the outbreak of the disease
in Edinburgh which has affected over 60 people, including a fatality.
Legionnaire's disease is an extreme form of pneumonia caused by
Legionella bacteria that can develop where there is warm standing water
(temperatures between 20oC to 45oC) and substances such as sludge or
rust, which are often found in tanks or pipework.
There are approximately 500 cases of Legionnaire's disease in Britain
every year, of which a staggering 10 per cent prove fatal. People become
affected when contaminated water droplets become airborne such as via
shower heads, saunas or spas and when those droplets are then inhaled.
The most vulnerable are men over 55 who smoke or with pre-existing chest
complaints, although the disease can affect anybody.
"If any business believes that they fall into these categories they need
to take immediate action," says Michael Slade. "This includes carrying
out a comprehensive Legionella risk assessment where a surveyor will
identify the potential risk. The surveyor will then prepare an action
plan for preventing or controlling the risk – such as appropriate
biocide dosing. The employer must then appoint someone with managerial
responsibility to implement the plan."
Slade adds: "Failure to act can put people at huge risk, so businesses
have a duty to ensure that regular checks are carried out. Legionella
may be present in a wide range of workplaces, and anywhere where water
is sprayed or stored could be a source of risk."
Slade also warns that rather confusingly the term often used in relation
to Legionella is 'cooling towers' but this can be anything from the
familiar towers seen on power stations through to a roof- or
wall-mounted air conditioning unit, which so many buildings have.
"For this very reason employers must not be complacent," he says, "and
if in doubt seek professional advice to ensure that the potential
sources of Legionella are identified and the risk managed swiftly and
"Not surprisingly, the Health & Safety Executive are strongly
committed to combating Legionnaire's disease and will come down
extremely hard on organisations that are not doing everything they can
to prevent it."
Bibby Consulting & Support has earned the reputation of being one of
the UK’s leading providers of compliance management services. We enable
employers and senior managers to attain and maintain compliance within
the demanding, complex and constantly evolving fields of Employment Law,
Health and Safety and Environmental legislation. www.bibbycas.com