Does Your Water Pass The Test?

The Health and Safety Executive has recently updated legislation regarding the control of Legionnaires’ disease. This revision means the legislation now applies to residential lettings, which was not covered previously.

Steve Povall, Managing Director for Residential Estates said “All residential properties which are rented out must now have a risk assessment undertaken to determine the risk of Legionella, which then allows landlords to implement a suitable management scheme”.

Legionella are bacteria that are common in natural and artificial water systems, where the temperature of the water is such as to encourage growth of the bacteria, the highest risk being between 20C and 45C. Stored and recirculated water is a particular risk. The bacteria causes Legionnaires; a pneumonia like illness which can be fatal. People can catch the disease by inhaling small droplets of water containing the bacteria which may be suspended in the air.

Legionella is usually associated with larger water systems found in factories and hospitals however the cultures of bacteria can thrive in smaller water supply systems that are in homes and other residential accommodation.

David Gascoyne, Sales and Lettings Manager at Residential Estates explains, “landlords, under new health and safety law, have a duty to take suitable precautions to prevent or control the risk of exposure to Legionella”.

A risk assessment is carried out (which is the landlord’s responsibility) and it will determine if any potential risks are present and whether any measures need to be taken to control or eliminate risks. In order to identify risks in your water system, Residential Estates recommends that a competent person, who understands the system and any associated equipment, should establish any possible exposure to Legionella risks through doing a risk assessment.

The risk assessment involves assessing whether conditions are right for bacteria to flourish. Stagnant water, in tanks for example, infrequently used outlets, showers and air conditioning units, debris in water systems, and thermostatic mixing valves should checked and remedial action taken where necessary. Additionally, the vulnerability of people who may be at risk must also be assessed. Landlords and agents need to identify this in their risk assessments.

If it is decided that the risks are insignificant and are being properly managed to comply with the law, the assessment is complete. There will be no need to take any further action, but David Gascoyne recommends that “it is important to continually review the assessment periodically in case anything changes”.