Management of Water Systems During COVID-19

Management of Water Systems During COVID-19

Management of Water Systems During COVID-19 

With UK currently in Lockdown, we are aware that many of our clients will have taken the difficult decisions to reduce staffing levels or the closure of their buildings, to assist in reducing the spread of Covid-19.

However, please be aware that such actions can increase the chances of Legionella surviving in water systems as a direct result of low turnover of water within systems that are not being used as frequently, or as a result of existing control measures that are in place not being implemented at times of closure or low occupancy.

We have received guidance from the Legionella Control Association (LCA) regarding what the expectation is for the management of water systems during this period of COVID-19 precautions.

The Health and Safety at Work Act still applies and Duty Holders must still take reasonable practical steps to control the risk from Legionella throughout this period of time. Duty Holders implicated in an outbreak of Legionnaires disease, resulting from actions taken for COVID-19 precautions are not likely to have any exemption from prosecution.”

Each Duty Holder must make their own determination for each circumstance, but the following principles should be considered when making decisions on what to do to control Legionella during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Closing down or mothballing buildings?

Should the difficult decision have been made to shut down or mothball buildings, due to a reduction in workforce or the temporarily shutdown of the business during the COVID-19 outbreak, we advise the following control measures are implemented:

  • Where possible, it is advised that all stored water is drained down to reduce the potential of stagnation of water within water systems.
  • If this cannot be carried out, then it is recommended to reduce the volume of stored water to ensure that there is a maximum of 24 hours’ worth of stored water.
  • Revise your sites current infrequently used outlet list and amend to include outlets in areas that have been mothballed.
  • Increase the flushing of infrequency used outlets, recording this action in the log book.
  • Ensure all cold water is stored and delivered from outlets at less than 20°C.
  • Ensure all stored hot water above a capacity of 15 litres is stored at a minimum temperature of 60°C.
  • Ensure all stored hot water below a capacity of 15 litres is stored between 50°C – 60°C.  
  • Any hose pipes, water systems and appliances/machinery without back flow protection as per water regulations, should be disconnected when not in use.

Recommissioning of water systems

When the spread of COVID-19 can be controlled and normal life as we know it can be resumed, and businesses start to re-open. It is essential that water systems are not simply put back in to use. It is sensible to put together a recommissioning plan for each water system within the building, to provide reassurance to people returning to work that the water systems are safe for normal use. To ensure the safety of employees throughout the business, the following control measures are recommended:

  • A chemical disinfection of all Cold water storage tanks, storage vessels & header tanks, where possible including their associated water systems.
  • A thermal disinfection/ pasteurisation or all hot water heaters, where possible including their associated water systems.
  • Ensure all outlets and associated systems are flushed thoroughly.
  • Expansion vessel are purged and drained.
  • Where possible samples of the water should be taken ensure all control measures implemented were successful in reducing the proliferation of bacteria.
  • Shower heads, hoses & spray heads should be dismantled, cleaned and chlorinated.
  • Limescale should be removed from outlets.
  • Check water softening equipment is fit for use.

There is potential for multiple outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease following the COVID-19 outbreak if actions taken now are not carefully considered and additional controls put in place for when normal life returns. Please be aware that the responsibility for Legionella control lies with the Duty Holder. LegionellaSafe Services are here to assist you in ensuring that you consider any risks presented from your water systems as a result of actions taken in your efforts to control the COVID-19 outbreak.

Call free for a quote 0808 133 0131

The Importance of performing legionella risk assessments in UK businesses

The importance of performing legionella risk assessments in UK businesses

Ensuring your business is compliant with Legionella health and safety standards is essential to maintain the wellbeing of you and your staff.

On average, there are approximately 200-250 reported confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease each year in England and Wales and it is thought that the total number of cases may be underestimated. – UK.Gov.

Why is it important for my business to have a Legionella plan in place?

Businesses must comply with the legislation set by the HSE, failure to comply can result in fines, business closure and serious health and safety risks.

Legionella risk assessment companies are able implement a Legionella management plan to ensure your water systems are compliant with HSE standards. Landlords and property managers (or whoever assumes the role of coordinating Legionella risk assessments) are responsible for arranging assessments.

Keeping on top of your Legionella management policy is essential and will eliminate the risk of contamination.

When to book a risk assessment

While there are no laws governing when you should arrange a risk assessment, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advise that water systems should be reviewed periodically in the interest of the tenants and occupants of the building. Checks can be made during routine gas safety and maintenance visits

However, if your water system has recently been replaced, a risk assessment is strongly advised to ensure the settings are in accordance with HSE and ACOP L8. If undergoing an assessment risks of exposure are discovered, you are obliged under under HSE and ACOP L8 to put in place an adequate legionella control regime.

What areas are assessed?

Businesses that utilise the following water systems are able to undergo a Legionella risk assessment:

  • Cooling towers & evaporative condensers
  • Hot & cold water systems
  • Air conditioning units
  • Swimming pools and Jacuzzis

Both domestic and commercial properties require Legionella risk assessments if they are utilising any of the above.

Whose responsibility is it to arrange these checks?

For residential properties (landlords)

For residential properties (landlords)

Landlords of both domestic properties are responsible for ensuring a Legionella risk assessment is carried out. However, this does not mean they have to carry the assessment out themselves (but they are able to so long as they are competent). Additionally, there is a legal duty for landlords to assess and control the risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria.

The RLA states that:

“Landlords are under a duty to ensure that the risk of exposure to tenants, residents and visitors by Legionella is properly assessed and controlled. Normally there is no reason why the landlord should not carry out this risk assessment himself/herself so long as they are competent.”

For businesses (commercial properties)

For businesses (commercial properties)

For businesses, the person responsible is often assigned the role (maintenance managers etc). Again, they are responsible for ensuring standard health and safety are enforced but do not have to carry-out the assessment themselves. Instead, they can opt for a Legionella management company to oversee the assessment.

Failure to comply

In the UK alone, there are approximately 200-250 reported and confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease each year, and Gov claim that it is likely that the total number of cases may be underestimated.

While it’s easy to blame landlords and commercial property managers (or whoever assumes the role), HSE’s reluctance to enforce Legionella compliance nationwide also shoulders the blame.

Failure to comply with the legislation will result in fines and the potential closure of the property as well as endangering the health and safety of the tenants and occupants (this can be fatal).

How much does a risk assessment cost?

At LegionellaSafe Services, we provide a no obligation, full site survey and audit. Your property will be assessed to find out how many water systems are running and what you need to be safe and compliant.

Call one of our specialist team today on 0330 133 0131 or contact us by email.

The Risk of Legionella in Showers

Fears that bacteria which can cause Legionnaires Disease 

found in Norfolk Hospital

The discovery has prompted Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust (NCH&C) to close all washing facilities at the hospital.

Showers are a risk point for Legionella. We know of businesses which have workplace showers which are used very infrequently. These will pose a particular risk

All workplaces have a duty to ensure they have measures in place to mitigate Legionella risk and you are also required to seek advice.

The Risk of Legionella in Showers.

Why are showers high risk?

Legionella bacteria is dispersed in airborne water droplets, so the spray created by a shower is the perfect delivery mechanism. Anyone using a contaminated shower risks breathing in the bacteria and developing Legionnaires’ disease as the bug takes hold in the lungs.

Persons over the age of  45, smokers, heavy drinkers or have a health condition such as heart disease, asthma or diabetes, they are at even greater risk of developing an infection.

Are you Legionella aware?

Fortunately the risk is reasonable easy to manage. If you have concerns about your system the first thing you can do is carry out a Legionella Risk Assessment. This needs to be carried out by a competent professional who can assess the bacterial risks.

If there is a risk, shower heads will need to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected or possibly replaced (this will need to be done by a professional) and the outlets will need to be flushed on a regular basis to reduce the risk of water stagnation.

Further information, support and advice

If you have questions about any of the issues raised above and would like to speak with one of our specialists

Call us today on 0808 133 0131  or get in touch here … contact us


If you are an employer, or someone in control of premises, including landlords, you must understand the health risks associated with legionella. This section can help you to control any risks.

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