In this article, our expert H&S consultant, Colin Jones, looks to discuss legionella in the workplace and offer advice to employers.
Legionellosis is a collective term for diseases caused by legionella bacteria including the most serious Legionnaires’ disease, as well as the similar but less serious conditions of Pontiac fever and Lochgoilhead fever. Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and everyone is susceptible to infection. The risk increases with age but some people are at higher risk including:
Legionella bacteria are widespread in natural water systems, e.g. rivers and ponds. However, the conditions are rarely right for people to catch the disease from these sources. Outbreaks of the illness occur from exposure to legionella growing in purpose-built systems where water is maintained at a temperature high enough to encourage growth, e.g. cooling towers, evaporative condensers, hot and cold water systems and spa pools used in all sorts of premises (work and domestic).
People contract Legionnaires’ disease by inhaling small droplets of water (aerosols), suspended in the air, containing the bacteria. Certain conditions increase the risk from legionella if:
The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are similar to the symptoms of the flu:
Legionnaires’ disease is not known to spread from person to person.
Legionnaires’ disease is treated with antibiotics. The sooner therapy is started, the less likely the chance of developing serious complications. In many cases, treatment requires hospitalization.
An employer shall not carry out any work which is liable to expose any employees to any substance hazardous to health unless they have –
Legionella bacteria are classified as substances hazardous to health and therefore a Legionella risk assessment can be considered a mandatory requirement in all workplace buildings with water systems.
Are there legionella risks in your workplace? Are you unsure of your responsibilities? As an employer, you have a legal duty to keep your employees safe, if you would like to discuss legionella in the workplace further or would like to understand how our team can help you keep on top of your Health and Safety, get in contact with our team of experts today.
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