Legionella is a pathogenic bacteria whose trace amounts can be found in natural water resources such as lakes or rivers. However, when the environmental conditions are right, legionella can also survive in purpose-built water systems and put people's health at risk. Legionella spreads in water droplets that can be inhaled when suspended in the air and cause serious respiratory diseases such as Pontiac fever or a type of pneumonia called Legionnaires’ disease.
Since legionella poses a threat to a person's health, all duty holders must be aware of methods to prevent and control risks associated with its exposure and act according to the Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) L8, which you will find more about in this article.
Every duty holder (an employer, premises owner, a landlord, etc.) is legally required to comply with health and safety requirements when there is a risk of exposure to legionella. Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) L8 offers advice on meeting the requirements outlined in the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
ACOP L8 is not compulsory. However, it was approved by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and thus, following its guidelines ensures that you are complying with the law. Of course, you can rely on other codes of action, but ACOP L8 contains all the practical guidance you will need.
Complying with ACOP L8 is vital because it ensures that no one's health is put at risk and, because it holds a special legal status, compliance can also protect you from prosecution. If you are accused of having breached health and safety laws and fail to demonstrate that you had acted according to the ACOP L8 guidance, you will have to prove that you followed the law in an alternative way.
ACOP L8 is designed for duty holders who have legal obligations to prevent legionella exposure in the workplace. As a duty holder, you are required to identify and assess sources of risk, prepare a plan to prevent or control the risks, implement, manage and monitor the precautions and keep these precautions on the record.
ACOP L8 covers:
Keep in mind that the technical guidance on evaporative cooling systems, hot and cold water systems and other risk systems has been removed from the newest edition of ACOP L8 and can now be found in HSG274. If you require guidance on spa pools, it can be found in HSG282.
A legionella risk assessment is necessary regardless of the type of water system your workplace uses. An assessment should be carried out by a competent person responsible for ensuring the measures comply with the law. As a duty holder, you are responsible for appointing that individual. The appointed person could be yourself, an employee or an outside person as long as they possess the necessary skills and expertise.
For a more in-depth understanding of risk assessments, visit our Online Risk Assessment Training Course.
An ACOP L8 legionella risk assessment must identify the risks in order to help you evaluate whether the exposure to legionella can be avoided, and identify the measures that can be implemented to reduce that risk if prevention is not possible.
The risk assessment must also offer guidance on the controls that can be put in place to prevent legionella growth. This guidance might include:
If the risk of legionella growth cannot be prevented, appropriate safety measures must be implemented to help manage it. In order to do that, you have to identify:
All individuals at risk should be made aware of this risk assessment, and the safety measures contained within it. In addition, if the number of employees exceeds 5, you are required to record your findings, including:
The risk assessment should be reviewed regularly to ensure that the implemented precautions are adequate and report any changes. These might refer to hiring new employees who require training, changes to the system or the personnel, and a case of any legionella-related disease.
If you are looking to complete a Legionella course, consider taking our online Legionella Awareness Training Course Online or Legionella Awareness for Duty Holders Training courses which, unlike classroom courses, can be completed in your own time and at your own pace.