How Social Distancing Can Increase the Risk of Legionnaire’s Disease
Given recent guidance issued by the HSE and observations made whilst carrying out Legionella risk assessments, I feel that some basic Legionella principles may be getting overlooked.
The HSE COVID-19 workplace guidance states that:
“ To protect people when using existing toilet and washing facilities consider the following:
Taking some static facilities out of use where they are less than 2m apart. If this includes toilet facilities such as urinals you should ensure that you still have a sufficient number of toilets in your workplace.”
While this guidance may appease social distancing from a COVID-19 perspective, I believe that a large number of businesses are not aware of the repercussions that this may have.
As a consultant of the Legionella industry, one of the basic principles of prevention that we employ is to ensure that there is sufficient turnover of domestic hot and cold water from all outlets on at least a weekly basis.
Now that the COVID guidance is being actively implemented, there are more and more situations like the image to the left.
The common solution to social distancing in public toilets is to place hazard tape over middle basins., While this is an effective (and cheap) resolution, you may cause more harm than good if you don’t implement an effective Legionella control strategy, and it’s simple! Flush! Flush! Flush!
Most businesses will already have weekly flushing regimes for low use outlets on site, but in the midst of a pandemic people’s minds are focused on other aspects of health and safety. It’s a simple, but very effective control method. All cordoned-off wash hand basins and any other areas with unused water facilities should be flushed until the temperature at the outlet stabilises in line with the source (e.g. CWST, Calorifier etc.)
Premises which have been mothballed during COVID 19 and are looking to return should follow HSE guidance with regards to re-opening.
“You should review your risk assessment and manage the legionella risks when you:
reinstate a water system or start using it again
restart some types of air conditioning units
If the water system is still used regularly, maintain the appropriate measures to prevent legionella growth.”
It is important that you:
Review your risk assessment and written scheme
Recommission as though the system was new (flushed, cleaned and disinfected) before it’s returned to use.
Compliance Consultant & Business Development Manager
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