HSE to Target Legionnaires’ Disease Risks in 2013 by Paul Wagstaff

The HSE has announced that it has recently completed a review of Legionnaires’ Disease outbreaks over the past ten years. This review highlighted a range of common failures in control and a potential risk of further outbreaks, for example:

  • departures from planned maintenance schedules (allowing plant conditions to get worse and longer periods for problems to develop)
  • changes in the process (leading to changes in the risks or rendering existing precautions ineffective)
  • staff and/or contractor changes (leading to a loss of knowledge)
  • intermittent use of plant (resulting in inconsistent control measures)
  • unusual weather conditions (e.g. bacteria multiplying very fast in warm weather).
There were two major Legionnaires’ Disease outbreaks in the UK in 2012. In June, a cooling tower in Edinburgh was suspected of being the cause of 2 fatalities and dozens of people being hospitalised. In July, a hot tub in a Stoke-on-Trent discount superstore was the source of an outbreak that resulted in two deaths and up to 20 other cases.
The HSE will be sending a questionnaire to all premises notified as having a cooling tower or evaporative condenser.
The results from the returns will be used to prioritise inspections. At other visits, HSE  Inspectors may look at control of the risks from other water systems such as hot and cold water systems, humidifiers, air washers, emergency showers, eye wash sprays and tunnel washers.
Guidance is available at http://www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/index.htm or by contacting us.
Our thanks to RSA’s Health & Safety Consultant and resident subject matter expert, Paul Wagstaff for the information in this article.



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