Risk of Legionnaires Disease - Increase due to Corona Virus

"Employers, the self-employed and people in control of premises, such as landlords, have a duty to identify and control risks associated with legionella" - HSE 

Anybody in charge of a property should understand the above statement made by the HSE. The first step is always to carry out a legionnaires disease risk assessment to decide the level of risk.

For properties controlled by private landlords a legionnaires disease landlords risk assessment form is often used. Here is a useful free template for a legionnaires disease risk assessment of a rental property.

A key part of any risk assessment process is that they should be reviewed whenever there is any significant change in circumstances. The corona virus outbreak and associated Covid-19 disease have significantly altered the circumstances of many properties. So, the risk assessment should be immediately reviewed.

How has the Corona Virus outbreak altered the risk of Legionnaires disease?

In all legionella risk assessments the turn over of the different water systems is a key factor to evaluate the risk. Little used outlets and infrequently used outlets are always a higher risk than frequently used outlets.

Many buildings, such as hotels, guest houses, student accommodation and other rental properties have been unoccupied for a long time. Its has also been very warm recently. These two factors greatly increase the risk of legionella infection and risk of exposure from the water systems in the building.

In an unoccupied building ALL the outlets may now be classified as infrequently used, with a consequent rise in risk factor. Also legionellae bacteria thrive best at temperatures of 20C to 45C. The warm weather may have caused cold water storage tanks to reach this temperature range. Thus greatly increasing the chance of infection by Legionellae bacteria.

What action can I take to reduce the risk of legionnaires disease in properties I control?

The first step would be to make yourself aware of the risks and control measures associated with Legionnaires disease. An online legionella training and awareness course is ideal for this.

Once you have understood the risks and control measures of Legionnaires disease. Then for most simple premises you can carry out a 'new' risk assessment and compare it to your existing one.

The course of action you then take to minimise the risks of legionellae infection will depend on what you find. Here is a list of actions you may have to take:

  • Hot and cold water systems - For infrequently used hot and cold water outlets which may be all of the outlets. Flush them weekly to prevent water stagnation. You may need to clean and disinfect the water systems before the building is occupied.

  • Cooling towers and evaporative condensers - You should have reviewed operations in advance and have existing plans in place to ensure safe systems of work continue during any shutdown. Follow the procedures you have decided upon for a shutdown. These will be detailed in your Legionella control strategy.

  • Commercial spa pools and hot tubs - Maintain the existing control regimes if they are in use. Otherwise drain, clean and disinfect them, and clean and disinfect them again before reusing them.

Some other questions that we often get asked by Landlords are detailed below:

  • What is Legionnaires Disease and what is legionella?

  • When was Legionella discovered and can Legionnaires disease be cured?

  • Is a legionella risk assessment a legal requirement for landlords and is it mandatory?

  • Do landlords need a legionella risk assessment?

  • How to do a Legionella risk assessment?

The answers to all of these questions are in our knowledge bank, in our article "Does a Landlord need a Legionella Risk Assessment and other FAQ."