What is Legionnaires’ disease – the facts

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia, which can be particularly serious in the elderly or those with a weak immune system. With many social housing properties, in particular, inhabited by vulnerable groups, making sure their hot and cold water systems are legionella-free is essential.
Outbreaks can occur in any watercourse, natural or man-made, and a number of factors increase the risk, including:
• Water temperature of 20°C-45°C
• Creating and spreading breathable droplets of water
• Stored and/ or recirculated water
• The presence of sludge, scale or fouling, which is a source of nutrients for the bacteria.
Humans contract the disease by inhaling small droplets containing the bacteria, and symptoms can be similar to those of flu; for example, high temperatures, fever, chills, cough, muscle pains and headaches, and can begin at any time between 2 and 14 days of infection. Severe cases will see pneumonia, mental confusion, and potentially death.

Changes to the law

Legislation has been updated to help prevent Legionnaires’ disease. The Health and Safety Executive has released a revised Approved Code of Practice – Legionnaires’ disease: The control of legionella bacteria in water systems.
It tasks property professionals such as letting agents and landlords, with taking extra precautions to reduce the risk of this potentially fatal disease.

Is this really my responsibility?

Ask yourself this simple question: If a tap breaks or leaks, who is responsible for getting it repaired? If the answer is you, then yes legionella prevention is your responsibility.

How do I comply?

To comply with the law, landlords and letting agents need to be aware that legionella bacteria can multiply in hot or cold water systems and storage tanks. It can be spread via showers and taps. Risk assessments must identify and assess potential sources of exposure and steps taken to prevent or control any risk that is identified.

The future

With rising house prices and stricter criteria for getting a mortgage, the rental housing sector is booming, meaning more properties will be governed by the revised ACoP legislation. Bluewater Plumbers have recognised that this means there is a greater need for their plumbing and heating engineers to undertake further training and gain the competency to complete a risk assessment; and where necessary water treatment procedures to help prevent the spread of Legionnaires’ disease.