Legionella is a type of bacteria that can be found in natural water sources such as lakes, rivers and reservoirs, where they tend to occur in relatively low numbers. However, Legionella can also be found in manmade, purpose-built water systems, which if left undetected can grow to dangerous levels. Tiny particles of contaminated water if aerosolised, can be inhaled into the lungs and cause Legionnaires disease.
Water systems that could be most at risk include;
- Cooling water systems, cooling towers and evaporative condensers
- Hot and cold water systems
- Safety showers, sprinklers, vehicle wash systems
- Fountains and water features
- Spa pools
- Spray humidifiers, misters, air washers and wet scrubbers
- Any other system containing water in which Legionella could grow and be released in aerosol droplets
The Legionella bacteria are waterborne and can easily be inhaled into the lungs through tiny, contaminated water droplets or aerosols. This can lead to Legionnaire’s Disease, a severe form of pneumonia, which causes potentially fatal complications to occur within the lungs. It is not contagious; it is contracted by the inhalation of droplets from water systems containing high levels of Legionella.
Legionella bacteria is found to be present in up to 13% of water samples and it is common to find harmless levels of Legionella and other bacteria in mains supplied drinking water. However, it is therefore important to monitor and test regularly to ensure that an increase in levels is detected before they can cause any harm.
At Swiftclean, our experts provide professional, cost effective Legionella testing services to help you keep your company, property, employees and tenants safe, ensure that your business complies with L8 guidelines and monitor the risk of Legionnaire’s disease within your building.
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What Types Of Businesses Are Considered High Risk For Legionella?
Legionella thrives in warm water environments where there are available nutrients such as scale, sediment, rust, algae, sludge or even stagnant water which allow the bacteria to multiply and increase to dangerous levels.
The types of businesses that we work with which are more at risk of Legionella due to the water systems on their properties include;
- Hotels and restaurants
- Commercial buildings
- Residential complexes
- Hospitals and care homes
- Dental practices
- Sports halls, swimming pools, spas and saunas
- Industrial companies (air-conditioning & cooling towers)
Regular testing of water quality is proven to help mitigate the risk of Legionella contamination and ensure that you keep everyone safe and healthy.
Legionella Testing Services
It is recommended to test for Legionella when:
- The limits of a control regime, e.g. temperature or disinfectant concentrations, are not being consistently achieved.
- There is a high-risk area or a place where there is a population with increased susceptibility, e.g. in healthcare premises such as care homes.
- A water system is suspected or identified in a case of an outbreak of Legionellosis.
- A water system is being treated with biocides and hot water is stored or distributed at lower temperatures.
It is recommended that unless you have had sufficient training that you do not use a Legionella testing kit as results can be inconclusive and may have not been taken from specific high risk areas (such as poor temperature distribution, low usage outlets etc).
Legionella testing must be carried out by a competent person(s) who has had adequate training to identify the conditions that encourage legionella proliferation and when a Legionella Risk Assessment may be required. As certified members of the Legionella Control Association, Swiftclean are fully qualified to carry out legionella testing, risk assessments and advise on compliance to L8 standards.
Legionella Instant Testing Kits
Swiftclean offers the Hydrosense rapid testing method as an alternative solution to the traditional Lab Culture method for sampling. The rapid testing method is accurate, completely on-site and fast – in fact, it’s the fastest Legionella test in the world and provides results in as little as 25 minutes. The immediate results allow for rapid corrective action to be taken and can help duty holders to mitigate the health risks associated with public exposure to Legionella bacteria, such as illness and fatalities, and the business risks such as fines and bad press.
At Swiftclean, we provide comprehensive Legionella testing services that can be utilised as either a one off visit or a contract basis for your property.
However, if you wish to test the water yourselves, then you can order Legionella instant testing kits from our website.
Simply get in touch and our friendly advisors will help to discuss your requirements, provide a free no obligation quote, get you booked in for a site visit to test your water systems or get your testing kit sent out in the post.
Our trained experts have years of experience sampling and testing for Legionella across a wide range of water systems, throughout various types of buildings and for different industries.
After an initial assessment of the property and systems, our team will be able to accurately establish a sampling plan which will detail how many samples will be taken as well as the types of sampling and the locations they are going to be taken from. They will likely include samples from separate hot and cold outlets and areas that have been identified as being a potential risk for high numbers of legionella such as those with poor temperature distribution.
Samples are then taken using a method called bottle sampling which involves the collection of water into small, sterile vials which are then labelled and sent for external analysis to a UKAS approved laboratory.
The periodic sampling and testing of water sources is crucial to ensuring not only that the system is safe but as a preventative measure to identify any potential issues early on and monitor them to make sure that the responsive actions taken are effective.
The frequency that Legionella testing is required will depend on a number of factors including the size and type of water systems involved. A Legionella risk assessment is the best way to determine accurately how often Legionella testing is required for a specific property or business.
Regular Legionella testing is also a valuable demonstration to regulators, clients and colleagues that sufficient control over water systems is being maintained and that levels of Legionella bacteria are kept within safe limits.
More resources and best practice
The Legionnaires’ disease Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) L8 is aimed at dutyholders, including employers, those in control of premises and those with health and safety responsibilities for others. The code of practice has been put into place to help businesses comply with their legal duties in relation to Legionella.
It’s imperative that every employer has a duty of care to ensure an employee’s health, safety and welfare. This specifically includes controlling the risks of hazardous substances, including Legionella bacteria.
Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations, owners and operators of all commercial premises (including: Social Housing, Facilities Management, Hotels & Stadiums, Healthcare, Education and others) have a legal responsibility to control the risk of Legionella bacteria in water systems. Owners and operators of all commercial properties are required to:
- Identify and assess the sources of risk (see Legionella Risk Assessment for more information)
- Prepare a scheme for preventing or controlling the risk
- Appoint a person to be managerially responsible
- Implement and manage precautions
- Keep records of the precautions implemented
The risk of Legionella can be controlled by implicating stringent water temperature controls.
Water services should be operated at temperatures that prevent Legionella growth, such as:
- Hot water storage units should store water at 60°C or higher
- Hot water should be distributed at 50°C or higher (55°C in healthcare)
- Cold water should be stored and distributed below 20°C
Cold water systems should be designed to comply with the relevant Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999.
Legionella growth can occur in stagnant water, so to reduce to the risk of this, water systems should be designed to ensure any stored water is turned over within a 24 hour period (12 hours in healthcare) and does not contain dead leg pip work or infrequently used outlets.
Hot water systems should be designed to enable water distribution to achieve 50°C or higher to all served outlets within the recommended time limit of one minute.
Hot and cold water systems should also be regularly maintained to help minimise conditions, favourable for Legionella bacteria proliferation, occurring. This will include regular cleaning and disinfection of stored water units, servicing of thermostatic mixer valves and removal of scale from outlets etc.
Other methods to control Legionella should include the analysis of water samples periodically to demonstrate that bacteria counts are acceptable. The frequency of the water samples should be determined by the level of risk, in accordance with the risk assessment.
The most effective way to test for Legionella bacteria is to take a water sample which is then analysed by a UKAS accredited laboratory to determine the presence of bacteria and, if present, identify the amount of colony forming units and strain. Identification of the amount of colony forming units and strain will then help determine what actions are required to remove or minimise the risk.
To be conducive, samples should be taken from both hot and cold water storage units and sentinel outlets (nearest and furthest to the associated water source) as a minimum to help identify if contamination (if present) is localised or system spread.
Microbiological monitoring of domestic hot and cold water supplied from the mains is not usually required, unless the risk assessment or monitoring indicates there is a problem. Is sampling is determined to be required then sampling should target;
- areas where the required control parameters are not met (i.e. where disinfectant levels are low or where temperatures are below 50 °C (55 °C in healthcare premises) for HWS or exceed 20 °C for cold water systems);
- from areas subject to low usage, stagnation, excess storage capacity, dead legs, excessive heat loss, crossflow from the water system or other anomaly.
Legionella proliferation is favourable when the following conditions are available
- Temperatures between 20 – 45°C (cannot multiply below 20°C and cannot survive above 60°C)
- Availability of a nutrient source such as rust (in the form of ferrous iron), sludge, organic matter and biofilms
- Stored and / or re-circulated water (where stagnation is possible)
In order to control and reduce the risk of Legionella, we recommend that where the risk cannot be removed, planned preventative maintenance tasks are implemented. Such tasks may include;
- Weekly flushing of infrequently used outlets
- Monthly temperature monitoring of hot storage units
- Monthly temperature monitoring of sentinel hot and cold outlets and percentage (usually 10%) of representative hot and cold outlets
- Quarterly descaling and disinfection of aerosol generating outlets / attachments
- Annual inspection of hot and cold storage units
- Annual inspection and servicing of thermostatic mixer valves
- FREE quotation/technical advice – Nationwide – call 0800 243 471
- Works carried out in accordance with the Legionella Control Association (LCA) code of conduct
- Risk Assessments and control schemes carried out to L8, BSRIA and CIBSE guidelines
- All works fully certified and legionella control log books provided
- Fully trained and directly employed staff
- Method Statements and Risk Assessments provided site specific as required
- Training for your own staff following risk assessment