How important is Legionella awareness training currently?

Steve Mills

Steve Mills
Senior Consultant, Assurity Consulting
6th May 2020

Additionally, The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, regulation 13(2) states, ‘Every employer shall ensure that his employees are provided with adequate health and safety training’. Both of these are supported by the Health & Safety at Work 1974 saying that it is the responsibility of employers to provide to employees, ‘such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of employees.’

Whilst these regulations are rules, we must legally abide by, there is a moral obligation to protect all visitors to our buildings, from any risks that could be associated with our water systems, namely in this case, Legionella.

As a Statutory Duty Holder or Appointed Responsible Person you have an obligation to show that those carrying out tasks associated with Legionella management and/or maintenance on the water systems you are responsible for;

  • Can demonstrate competence in undertaking these tasks; and
  • Understands the risks that Legionella can pose, the systems that can be affected and the consequences and implications of not carrying out what to some can be seen to be mundane tasks.

It is all well and good asking someone who isn’t familiar with the water systems, say a cleaner, to carry out weekly flushing but, if they are not aware of ‘why’ they are carrying out the tasks and the implications of not doing it, it may not get done.

Ignorance can never be a defence, so ‘not knowing’ won’t help if the worst happens. Fines are heavy, reputation fragile and with the internet, bad news can be around forever. The HSE’s HEX report of 2012 shows that every single Legionella out-break up to 2012 was caused by a failure in the ‘scheme of control’ of which competency and awareness of risk are key, and there is no reason to think any differently in 2020. You cannot create a scheme of control without an understanding of the risk from Legionella, and how it manifests itself within your water system.

Mobilising and reopening buildings after the COVID-19 lockdown period will potentially increase these risks due to:

  • Low occupancy;
  • Low water turnover;
  • Possible over-storage for the amount of water used;
  • Temperature issues and;
  • The speed at which Legionella can colonise water systems.

So, it is vitally important that those who will be carrying out the mobilisation tasks are familiar with and aware of the risks. Legionella awareness training is very important, especially now as we come into ‘Legionella season’ and because our buildings may not be back to ‘business as usual’ yet.