Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia caused by bacteria called Legionella pneumophila. It’s usually spread through the air by water droplets containing the bacteria, which can be inhaled into the lungs.

While Legionnaires’ disease is relatively rare, it can be life-threatening, especially for those with weaker immune systems or health conditions. As we get into 2023, there are several steps that businesses can take to prevent the spread of Legionnaires’ disease.

Regular Maintenance of Water Systems

Legionella bacteria can grow in stagnant water, especially in warm temperatures between 20-45°C. To prevent the growth and spread of Legionella, it is crucial to maintain water systems properly. 

This includes regularly flushing pipes and outlets where water would otherwise sit stagnant, cleaning water tanks, cleaning and disinfecting shower heads and hoses, and ensuring that water heaters are kept at the appropriate temperature.

In addition to that, it’s essential to ensure that there are no unintended dead ends in the plumbing systems where water can sit for long periods of time, as this can create an ideal environment for the bacteria to grow.

Regular Testing of Water Systems

Water system being tested in a lab
Regular testing of water systems is essential

If the management of the water systems does not fall within ACoP L8 or HSG274, or HTM 04-01 parameters, you may need to have them regularly tested by a UKAS-accredited laboratory.

Water samples may be required to be tested for the presence of Legionella bacteria as part of a more comprehensive Legionella risk assessment. This can help identify areas where Legionella may be present in dangerously high concentrations and allow for appropriate action to be taken to prevent it from proliferating.

Implementing Appropriate Control Measures

Appropriate control measures should be enacted immediately if Legionella is detected at dangerous concentrations in a water system. This may include increasing the temperature of the water, disinfecting the water system, or getting alternative drinking water sources while the system is being dealt with. It’s essential to work with a certified professional, to develop an appropriate control plan based on the specific circumstances of the water system in question.

Proper Management of Water Storage Systems

Cooling towers are a very common source of Legionella bacteria, as they often provide the perfect environmental conditions for the bacteria to grow. It’s vital to properly manage cooling towers to prevent them from becoming a hotspot. This means maintaining an appropriate water treatment programme, adequate regular maintenance, and testing procedures for aerobic and legionella bacteria.

Educating Individuals On Prevention

Preventing Legionnaires' disease is an ongoing mission
Preventing Legionnaires’ disease is an ongoing mission

Education is a crucial factor in preventing the spread of Legionnaires’ disease. Employees should be aware of the risks associated with Legionella and how to prevent its spread. It’s the responsibility of employers to ensure that they receive this education.

This can include courses on the importance of regular testing of water systems, as well as the signs of Legionnaires’ disease. Education can also include information on proper hygiene and respiratory etiquette to prevent the spreading of respiratory infections.

Preventing the spread of Legionnaires’ disease in 2023 requires a comprehensive approach that includes regular testing of water systems combined with a range of other control measures. Education is also essential in preventing Legionella’s spread, which business owners shouldn’t overlook. By taking these steps, premises operators can help prevent the spread of Legionnaires’ disease, ensuring that they protect those who spend time in their spaces.