Common misunderstandings of legal obligations: “Do you have a tap?”

SQE Assurance Ltd

In our experience as both auditors and consultants we have reviewed many legal registers, too many to count.

Most have identified the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health and the usual duties have been identified by the various company’s such as carrying out COSHH assessments etc. but so often when we ask about Legionella controls, we are immediately told “it doesn’t apply to us”

Our response “do you have a tap?”

The legal duty to manage risks from harmful biological agents including Legionella arises from the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.

To assist businesses and landlords with understanding the requirements of this element of the COSHH Regulations the government have provided the Approved Code of Practice L8: Legionnaires' disease.

The control of legionella bacteria in water systems:

Approved Code of Practice and guidance.

Any organisation which is responsible for management or maintenance of water systems must assess whether those water systems present a risk to employees or others.

If the risk may be significant, the organisation must implement appropriate measures to eliminate or minimize the risk.

The Approved Code of Practice sets out guidance on control measures which may be required.

So, lets take a look at this in a little more detail…

“Any organisation which is responsible for management or maintenance of water systems” what does that mean.

The common misunderstanding about this requirement is due to publicity of Legionella outbreaks in hospitals, health and fitness centers and hotels; we have been told many times by clients that their understanding was that they don’t have showers installed.

The ACOP does not say anything about showers it talks about a water system which is a supply of water to a building and an outlet from which it can be run such as a tap. “must assess whether those water systems present a risk to employees or others” this indicates that the ACOP is calling for a risk assessment.

We can therefore conclude that almost all premises controlled either by a business or landlord require a Legionella Risk assessment as a minimum.

Legionnaires’ disease is potentially fatal form of pneumonia caused by legionella bacteria.

It’s a hazard anyone responsible for buildings needs to manage.

Bacteria thrive in warm conditions and are most likely to cause illness when droplets are inhaled.

The risk is greatest for anyone with existing respiratory illness (e.g. asthma) but it can be reduced to a very low level if you apply best practice in maintaining your water system.

If there is a reasonably foreseeable risk, you should appoint a competent person to oversee your control measures.

This could be a member of staff or an outside company, but to be considered competent, they must have the knowledge, skills and expertise to identify and evaluate the risk, and also to give you an authoritative advice on practical precautions.

They should also check the precautions are applied and effective. Keep hot water hot and cold-water cold!

Use thermostats and insulation to avoid warm water in which bacteria thrive: for optimum legionella control, 50cC is the target temperature for hot water.

But in settings where showers are in use, you’ll need to minimize the scaling risk by using thermostatic mixing valves to keep the water temperature down to no more than 44oC.

Legionella bacteria can thrive in cold water systems as well as hot.

Be aware if your hot water system is fed from a cold-water tank, ensure that the water in this tank is not allowed to heat through exposure to heat, keep the tank well insulated and covered to prevent contamination.

Outdoor hose pipes can also be a breeding ground for legionella bacteria. Water allowed to stand for a long period of time before being used can pose a potential danger – ensure you flush hosepipes through on a regular basis to prevent a buildup of bacteria.

Taps which are used infrequently should also be run periodically, especially before use.

Look after your pipes!

Minimise water stagnation that may encourage the growth of bio-film (for example, by flushing through all pipe work every quarter)

Keep it clean!

Keep any spray equipment such as shower heads scrupulously clean.

Use water treatment e.g. regular disinfection, to keep the system clean.

Taps and their filters should also be kept clean.

Train your staff!

If you choose to appoint a member of staff as your competent person you should ensure that they receive training which is approved by a recognised body.

Employees who are involved in maintenance or cleaning within your building should receive training about the risks of legionella and the control measures you have in place. Keep records of all training given.

Document your actions!

Complete you risk assessment and identify your control measures such as those outlined above, ensure that you review your risk assessment regularly.

Set up a log to record any work carried out on your water system, for example, chemical treatment, boiler servicing, bacteria monitoring (and its results) – keep these records for at least 5 year!

How can we help?

Identifying your Compliance Obligations

Needing to complete a Legionella Risk Assessment is one of many Compliance Obligations which is overlooked by potentially thousands of business throughout the UK.

Business with Health & Safety and or Environmental Management Systems such as ISO 45001 and ISO 14001 will be required to identify their Legal Requirements and document the evaluation of their Compliance Obligations for business without such a system failure to identify such obligations will only become apparent when it is too late!

Through our Legal Update Service, we can visit your site and complete carry out an Evaluation of Compliance, compile a Bespoke Register of Legal Requirements and assist you in managing your Compliance. Training

We offer a comprehensive eLearning course Basic Legionella Management which is accredited by RoSPA.

This course explains the background to Legionella, the potential risks associated with water systems and how these can be prevented or controlled.

It helps you to understand the risk that Legionella poses and helps you develop the systems and working practices you need to stay ahead. It gives you enough knowledge to get a Legionella control programme off the ground yourself – or make confident, informed choices when commissioning others to take this on for you.

The course is divided into 6 modules:

1. What is Legionella?

2. Risk Areas

3. Legislation

4. Risk Management

5. Water System Monitoring

6. Cooling System Awareness

The duration of the course is 75 minutes (please note this does not take into consideration time taken to answer questions and replaying the video etc.)

The learner can pause the course at anytime until completed. SQE Assurance have a range of high-quality eLearning courses which are accredited by bodies such as RoSPA and IIRSM and many have CPD approvals.

Visit our website Our clients benefit from a self-managed portal through which they can add and manage their own learners and progress of learning. We offer competitive discounts to all clients purchasing multiple courses.