Legionella Control and Water Treatment Conference

Two weeks ago SAFESOL attended the H and V Combating Legionella Conference, and what an interesting few days it was. The write-up from the conference will be split in to 2 parts. It is aim is to help share information on legionella control.  This blog will focus on part 1 with part 2 available here.

Introduction to speakers and topics

Featured at the event, there were a variety of speakers talking about the different aspects of legionella control. These ranged from the HSE (Health & Safety Executive), who provided statistics and information on their investigations, through to councils, universities and hospitals, all telling us about the different ways they were controlling and managing legionella while remaining within a budget.

On top of this, we were made aware of a new guidance for Spa Pools which is due in the near future. Also we were informed about other bacteria problems we should be looking out for, especially in hospitals.

There really was a lot to take in!

And… Panel Discussions

The panel discussions from the councils and contractor’s club provided some interesting insight on the on-going problems that companies and organisation are facing within the industry. The issues people face every day don’t appear to have changed for many years yet unfortunately they still haven’t been addressed.

Over the two-day conference, the overriding message became clear. Despite the fact that Legionnaires’ disease is now preventable; there are still a substantial number of cases in Britain and throughout the industrialised world each year.

The Health and Safety Executive view on legionella control

The HSE started the first morning’s events, providing us with some interesting facts and figures from Lorraine Medcalf such as;

  • The number of cases of Legionnaires’ disease grew in the US by 4 times between 2000 and 2014.
  • There were 5000 diagnosed case of Legionnaires’ disease in the US during this time.
  • There were 20 outbreaks during this time.

And yet the most worrying thing about these numbers isn’t their volume, it’s the fact that most of the cases were preventable.

Legionella Control Around the world

Recently, America has been in touch with the British HSE to ensure that their laws and guidance covering legionella control is  as robust as possible. Unbelievably, cooling towers were not regulated in New York prior to 2015. Since 2016 all towers have to be registered, inspected and tested for legionella bacteria.

The HSE have also worked with Singapore, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands to provide help and advice about legionella control.

Legionella Control in the UK

In the UK alone there were 922 confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease between 2012 and 2014. This unfortunately resulted in 89 deaths. Research shows that it is men who are more susceptible to contracting legionnaire’s disease then women. The male to female ratio being 3:1. It is thought this is due to the industries in which men work.
As well as this, the most susceptible age group is the over 50’s.

There are plenty of laws and regulations to help people understand how to control legionella bacteria in their water systems. The HSWA (the Health and Safety at Work Act) is the overarching legislation, with the COSHH and ACOP (Approved Code of Practice) regulating legionella bacteria.

The HSE want to reduce cases of Legionnaires’ disease There are a number of ways to achieve this.

Companies need to ensure competence. People need to be competent to carry out the work assigned to them.

Rapid microbiological techniques can be used to trace sources of legionella bacteria. These can also be used as a quick check which can be used as a forerunner to UKAS tests. This can help quickly identify problem areas. Rapid microbiological techniques can be used to link the source to an outbreak.

The HSE are also advising companies to put in place water safety groups with suitable people to work together to control the risk from legionella.

Legionella Control Intervention Programme for Cooling Towers

At the event, Vin Poran talked about the HSE intervention programme for cooling towers. Although legionella outbreaks from cooling towers are low frequency they are high in impact. The HSE noted that often cooling tower risk assessments and written schemes are missing or out of date. They served improvement notices for: lack of risk assessment 23%; Implementation of control scheme 53%, lack of written control scheme 23%.

They also noted that in a number of cases cooling towers were not cleaned correctly, there was lack of training for the responsible person or there were faulty or missing drift eliminators on the towers. Many monitoring checks were missed and remedial action was not carried out in a timely fashion. The message for duty holders to take from this is there should be suitable and sufficient risk assessment in place with a written scheme to prevent and control any reasonable risk of exposure.

The key outcomes of the intervention programme were to raise awareness of the legionella risk associated with cooling towers, provide a comprehensive compliance picture and improve inspector competence.

Legionella Sampling

Dr Sandra Lee from Public Health England then gave a presentation on the key issues with water systems, sampling strategy, tests’ interpretation and control measures. Sandra shared advice and insight for the control of microbiological hazards in a water system and methods for the sampling and detection of air borne microorganisms in particular Legionella in water and the environment.

Panel Discussion- Designing out legionella

The council panel discussion was interesting with councils indicating how they dealt with various issues on reducing budgets. The 1st speaker Rob Bottomley emphasised the need for designers and installers of water systems to think about legionella control at the design stage of a system. He talked about his experience of being handed over a building for legionella control that already had risks designed in such as deadlegs, excessive storage, cold water storage tanks fitted when not required. He emphasised the need for some joined up thinking between what looks good and what can be maintained in the future. It is also important to install equipment where it can be serviced and maintained. There is no use fitting, for example, TMVs if they can’t be accessed for maintenance.

Part Two of this blog will be posted on Monday 17th October 2016.