Water hygiene & sanitation

Stagnant water can be a breeding ground for legionella and systems should be drained and thoroughly flushed out

Stagnant water can be a breeding ground for legionella and systems should be drained and thoroughly flushed out. Communal tanks are a common feature in large residential blocks and a thorough risk assessment should surround their maintenance and use. However, all social housing properties should have a legionella risk

assessment in place, as legionella could take hold for a variety of reasons: at times because the water temperature of stored water has been too low (under 60 degrees celsius) to kill the bacteria; at others because pipework has not been lagged, or because the water reaches individual units via circuitous pipework with twists and bends that could be home to stagnating or contaminated water. A written legionella policy that outlines the controls in place, maintains a

programme of regular monitoring of the water supply and appoints a ‘responsible person’, charged with maintaining the regime of control and risk identification, is essential. The responsible person may be the social housing provider, or a letting agent and also, at times, tenants themselves. Some residents are more at risk than others, particularly older people in

sheltered accommodation. However, heavy smokers or drinkers, past or present, and those with existing conditions such as diabetes and heart complaints, are also at higher risk. Risk control measures should reflect this and those responsible may decide to implement a regime of legionella water sampling within such properties, though this is not a legal requirement. In all environments, education is key, so everyone understands both how

legionella develops and the signs of a possible outbreak: flu-like demonstrations, headaches, fever, high temperature and diarrhoea. While property refurbishment can present a legionella threat, it can also

create a real opportunity. While older housing stock may have access issues that present barriers to effective monitoring, cleaning and disinfection, these could potentially be improved during the refurbishment process. Additionally, there may be an opportunity to make water circuits simpler and

shorter and remove dead legs. Better insulation could be installed around pipework and tanks, and better screening with more modern materials could prevent contaminants such as insects, rust and organic matter entering the water supply. Whatever the scenario, one thing is key within legionella management, and that is education. Ultimately, the message is that of not allowing your legionella

50 | HMM January 2018 | Andrew Scott of Gauntlet Group

risk management to stagnate. Continuously assess whether there have been changes to either water systems or the occupants living within properties and adjust controls accordingly. Ensure tenants cannot tamper with hot and cold water systems and make sure legionella education reaches everyone in the risk management chain, from tenants to workmen and suppliers, and not forgetting visitors to the site. Record procedures and actions taken, make policies living and regularly update documents. Being diligent about legionella management will keep you on the right side of

health and safety law, but the catalyst for that diligence should stem from your duty of care and social responsibility as a housing provider. Embracing this ethos should help protect against the invisible enemy that goes by the name of legionella.

Andrew Scott is the health and safety manager at Gauntlet Group

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