Do I need to carry out a Legionnaires Disease Risk Assessment ?
Under general Health and Safety law, as you are a Landlord and a person in control of a premises , you have health and safety duties and need to take suitable precautions to prevent or control the risk of exposure to legionella. Details of the specific law that applies can be found in part 1 of Legionnaires’ disease: The control of legionella bacteria in water systems.
The legal duty for landlords who provide residential accommodation to consider, assess and control the risks of exposure to Legionella to their tenants is not new. This requirement stems from the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1989; Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 makes provision for the legislation to apply to landlords of both business and domestic premises. All water systems require an assessment of the risk which they can carry out themselves if they are competent, or employ somebody who is.
In most residential settings, a simple assessment may show that the risks are low and no further action may be necessary. (An example of a typical lower risk situation may be found in a house or flat with small domestic-type water systems, where daily iowater usage is inevitable and sufficient to turn over the entire system; where cold water is directly from a wholesome mains supply (no stored water tanks); where hot water is fed from instantaneous heaters or low volume water heaters (supplying outlets at 50 °C); and where the only outlets are toilets and wash hand basins). If the assessment shows the risks are low and are being properly managed, no further action is needed but it is important to review the assessment regularly in case anything changes in the system.
Simple control measures can help control the risk of exposure to legionella such as:
flushing out the system prior to letting the property
avoiding debris getting into the system (eg ensure the cold water tanks, where fitted, have a tight fitting lid)
setting control parameters (eg setting the temperature of the boiler to ensure water is stored at 60°C)
make sure any redundant pipework identified is removed.
Tenants should be advised of any control measures put in place that should be maintained eg not to adjust the temperature setting of the boiler, to regularly clean showerheads and to inform the landlord if the hot water is not heating properly or there are any other problems with the system so that appropriate action can be taken. If there is difficulty gaining access to a property the appropriate checks can be made by carrying out inspections of the water system, for example, when undertaking mandatory visits such as gas safety checks or routine maintenance visits.
Where showers are installed, these have the means of creating and dispersing water droplets which may be inhaled causing a foreseeable risk of exposure to legionella. However, if used regularly (as in the majority of most domestic settings) the risks are reduced but in any case, tenants should be advised to regularly clean and disinfect showerheads. Instantaneous electric showers pose less of a risk as they are generally coldwater-fed and heat only small volumes of water during operation.
It is important that water is not allowed to stagnate within the water system and so there should be careful management of dwellings that are vacant for extended periods (eg student accommodation left empty over the summer vacation). As a general principle, outlets on hot and cold water systems should be used at least once a week to maintain a degree of water flow and minimise the chances of stagnation. To manage the risks during non-occupancy, consideration should be given to implementing a suitable flushing regime or other measures such as draining the system if it is to remain vacant for long periods.
Carrying out a risk assessment is your responsibility as a Landlord and will help you to establish any potential risks and implement measures to either eliminate or control risks. You may be competent to carry out the assessment yourself but, if not, you should ask someone with the necessary skills to conduct a risk assessment.
AST Lettings Ltd are able to offer to arrange a Legionella Risk Assessment for you at a modest cost. Please contact us for more details.