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Legionella Outbreaks – Managing the Risks
Posted by David Cant on August 1, 2012

An outbreak of Legionella has broken out in Stoke-On Trent.  This is the second case of Legionella in as many months, with three people dying in Edinburgh after the outbreak there in May.  Therefore it is important to focus on managing the risks from legionella in cooling towers and evaporative condensers.  The Health and Safety Executive have released a safety notice which has been created from reviewing outbreaks over the past ten years.

Bacteria Grows Quickly and Needs Monitoring

If you fail to control the risks the problem can grow very quickly and lead to serious health problems and death.  It is important to make sure you identify what the sources of the risks are and create a scheme which will ensure you are able to prevent and control the risks.  You will then have to put those controls into place, manage and monitor the situation.  It’s important to keep all records of the safety precautions and assign the job of managing the whole situation to a member of the organisation who holds a senior position.

Safety Plans and Management are Essential

The research into the past ten years has shown that 90% of the outbreaks are caused because there has been a failing to spot the risks and therefore no safety schemes have been put into place. These failures can come from:

  • The lack of contingency plans when employees are changed meaning lack of knowledge about the situation
  • Weather conditions
  • Changes in the usual processes which mean the current safety measures are no longer effective
  • Changes in cleaning schedules or planned maintenance

Monitoring plays an important role due to the speed that problems can accelerate.  The quality of the water must be carefully examined frequently to check bacterial levels.   The plant must also be checked to ensure it remains in good condition and that the cleaning is carried out on time and efficiently.  Monitoring must result in action should there be any action that is required, so underlying problems can be exposed and dealt with rather than a quick fix being put in place.

Excellent Communication is Required

Senior managers and those who are responsible will need to follow up on monitoring and control measures to ensure they are kept updated and on track.  If there is poor communication or lack of training this must be addressed as the HSE discovered that these factors often resulted in outbreaks of the deadly disease. You must communicate to all those involved in the control measures and management so that everyone fully understands their role and actions which need to be taken in certain situations.  Name the individuals and give them a clear outline of what their duties are, ensure they are fully trained for the position and have a very clear understanding of what they have to do, and when it has to be done.

Veritas Consulting health and safety consultants are happy to provide a number of health and safety services which can help you manage the risks. If you require audits or training you can contact the team of experts simply by calling 0800 1488 677.


Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME's favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick.

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This post has been filed in: Health and Safety at Work, Health and Safety Services, Safety Services, Workplace Health and Safety

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