What is Legionnaires’ Disease?

What is Legionnaires’ Disease?

Legionnaires’ Disease is a serious form of pneumonia caused by a bacterium called Legionella. You can contract Legionella by the inhalation of small water droplets that are suspended in the air, also known as aerosols.  Less commonly, people can get sick by aspiration of drinking water containing Legionella. This happens when water accidently goes into the lungs while drinking.

People in the following categories are at risk:

  • People 50 years or older
  • Current or former smokers
  • People with a chronic lung disease (like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema)
  • People with weak immune systems or who take drugs that weaken the immune system (like after a transplant operation or chemotherapy)
  • People with cancer
  • People with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure

The symptoms of Legionnaires Disease can be similar to other illnesses such as cold, flu, and SARS viruses, including Covid-19. These similar symptoms can mean that Legionnaires’ Disease is often not detected early enough.

Symptoms can include:

  • High temperature
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches and pains

Legionella bacteria can be found in water sources such as rivers and lakes, however, the bacteria can also be found in artificial water systems and others such as:

  • Cooling towers
  • Air conditioning units
  • Swimming Pools
  • Spas & Hot Tubs
  • Showerheads and sink faucets
  • Hot water tanks and heater
  • Large complex plumbing systems

Do all work places need a Legionella risk assessment?

The keys points of the HSE’s ACOP (Approved Code of Practice) L8, HSG 274 & HSG 282 are that;

  • All businesses, organisations and landlords need to protect employees, visitors, tenants and the general public against Legionella.
  • There is no exclusion for the size, number of staff or type of organisation.  The requirements of the ACOP L8 covers ALL businesses, domestic rented properties, charities, not for profit and sport clubs.
  • The Duty Holders, which includes, landlords, managers and business owners, are responsible for any failings, which includes failures on the behalf of contractors.
  • The Duty Holder MUST ensure all those involved are technically competent, which includes all staff and the use of contractors.
  • Risk assessments must be carried out at least once every 2 years, and be regularly reviewed.
  • Suitable control & prevention measures need to be carried out and recorded by a “technically competent” person who knows how to ensure the measures are still being effective.

If you have water on site, that people can be exposed to, you need to assess and manage the risk from legionella bacteria.

Legionella Risk Assessment

A Legionella risk assessment should be comprehensive and meaningful by which the risk can be removed or controlled and complies with the current regulations.

The Health & Safety Commission require building operators to comply with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 and the Health and Safety Commission’s Approved Code of Practice & Guidance (L8) document 2001

Legionnaires’ disease. The control of legionella bacteria in water systems (hse.gov.uk)