How to Perform a Legionella Risk Assessment

If you are a landlord or have paying guests living in your home, you are responsible for ensuring that your property is safe for those who live there. Along with standard gas certificates and Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), landlords need to be sure that the water supply is safe from Legionella.

Although it is not a legal requirement to have your water tested, you should carry out a Legionella Risk Assessment, particularly if there is a higher risk, such as if your property has been left empty for a while.

What is Legionella?

Legionella is a collection of bacterial diseases. The most known type is Legionnaires’ disease, which can be deadly. The bacteria inhabit lakes, ponds, and rivers in low concentrations. However, if they find their way into domestic water tanks, hot tubs, and air-conditioning units, the bacteria can colonise and multiply. If the Legionella bacteria are then inhaled in the vapour, they can cause a type of pneumonia. This is extremely serious, particularly for those who are of vulnerable health.

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include chest pain and difficulty breathing, a fever, and a persistent cough. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should call a doctor as it could indicate a serious condition.

What is a Legionella Risk Assessment?

Even if you have not heard about the Legionella Risk Assessment before, it is not a new concept. In 2001, the L8 Approved Code of Practice issued by the Health and Safety Executive outlined the guidelines. It includes the responsibility of landlords to recognise and minimise the risks caused by Legionella bacteria in sources of stored water.

There are several steps involved in doing a Legionella Risk Assessment, whether you do it yourself or contract a professional company to do it for you.

The assessment needs to record all the water systems at the property and note whether water is stored or recirculated within the system. Any system that maintains a water temperature between 20 and 45°C should be identified along with any places where rust, sludge, and limescale are present. These are significant identifiers showing a higher risk of Legionella bacteria colonising in these situations.

The next stage of a Legionella Risk Assessment is looking at who occupies the property. Those at higher risk should be recorded, such as children, smokers, those with existing chest conditions, and people with weakened immune systems.

Finally, any control actions should then be written down. These may include regular follow-up inspections, monitoring of water temperatures to maintain a minimum of 60°C, regular cleaning of showerheads and bath taps, removal of unused pipework, and flushing the system through after any periods of non-use.

If the risk assessment shows there is a need to have the water tested for the presence of Legionella, this has to be performed by a professional specialist company.

What are the Landlord’s Requirements?

One of the most important things to know as a landlord is that you are obliged to keep a record of your actions regarding Legionella Risk Assessment. It is not a legal requirement to employ a specialist company to do the assessment, but you must record what action you have taken to check for Legionella risk.

Most landlords do not have the knowledge and understanding required to carry out a risk assessment and then implement the necessary controls. However, if any tenant living in your property develops Legionnaires’ disease, you will be held responsible if your risk assessment is shown to be lacking.

Although the risk of Legionnaires’ disease is relatively low, hundreds of people in the UK are affected by this harmful bacteria every year. It is essential to show that as a landlord you have done everything possible to reduce the risk for your tenants.

For peace of mind, the most effective option is to have a professional company run a Legionella Risk Assessment and provide you with the necessary paperwork. For a relatively low financial outlay this action satisfies the legal requirements, should someone in your property later suffer and/or die from it.

If you are a landlord or have paying guests in your premises you need to have a Legionella Risk Assessment done regularly and record it. You can find more information about your legal responsibilities from the Health and Safety Executive. Alternatively contact a professional company in your area to take care of it for you.

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