Building closure or reduced occupancy can increase the risks of Legionnaires’ disease. It is important to manage the risk from legionella bacteria that may be present in the hot and cold water systems, or any other source of process water used.
The Covid-19 pandemic has seen the closure of non-essential businesses in an effort to slow the spread of infection.
However, it is important to remember that the Health and Safety at Work (NI) Order 1978 continues to apply during this time. Having in place a suitable and sufficient risk assessment will help dutyholders identify and assess the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria from work activities and water systems, as well as any precautionary measures that may be needed. The control and management of legionella is dealt with more specifically in Legionnaires’ disease. The control of legionella bacteria in water systems, Approved Code of Practice and guidance (L8).
The advice is issued to remind dutyholders of the need to manage the risk from legionella bacteria that may be present in wet cooling plant, in the hot and cold water systems of buildings, or any other source of process water used as part of
business activities, as a result of changes in operation due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Dutyholders must review how they manage Legionella risk during the Covid-19 outbreak. Water systems should be assessed individually as not all scenarios will be the same.
The following general advice applies:
• wet cooling systems must be maintained or safely shut down;
• hot and cold water systems supplying critical services, for example hospitals, must be maintained to ensure continued operation;
• hot and cold water systems in buildings that are empty or have a reduced occupancy must address the issue of stagnation, routine checks and maintenance that may not have taken place during this time.