With the holiday season in full swing, stories often emerge at this time of year of holiday makers falling ill due to contracting legionnaires’ disease from poorly maintained swimming pools while on holiday. Legionnaires’ disease is something which all “duty holders”,(which includes landlords and managing agents) must take steps to prevent, at all times of the year.

What is legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious lung infection which causes a pneumonia like illness and can be fatal. It arises when an individual inhales small droplets of water, which contain Legionella bacteria.

Legionella bacteria may exist in water systems, often connected to baths, showers, air conditioning units and swimming pools.

When might the risk of legionnaires’ disease arise?

Any water system which has the pre-requisite environmental conditions can potentially be a source of Legionella bacteria growth. There will be an increased risk of the bacteria existing in a water system if any of the following criteria exist:

  • There exists sources of nutrients such as rust, sludge and organic matters
  • Water is being stored or re-circulated as part of a water system
  • Water temperature in all or some part of the system is between 20 – 45 °C.

Individuals will be at a higher risk if they are over 45 years old, have a history of smoking/heavy drinking, have an impaired immune system or suffer from a pre-existing respiratory disease.

Requirements of duty holders

Under the Approved Code of Practice produced by The Health and Safety Executive, guidelines have been set out for duty holders to help inform them of how to manage and minimise the risks associated with Legionella and comply with legal standards.

The duty holder will need to carry out a risk assessment to establish any risks of Legionella bacteria existing within the property.

Who should complete the risk assessment?

The duty holder must ensure that the individual who carries out the risk assessment and provides advice on prevention and control of exposure, is competent to do so.

It is recommended that a record is kept of every inspection which includes the results, the locations assessed and the details of the person who undertook the assessment. Each record should be kept for a minimum of five years.

If any immediate or future risks are identified, proper controls will need to be implemented and maintenance conducted to eliminate the risk.

Consequences of failing to assess the risk of the existence of Legionella bacteria

Duty holders found to be in breach of their duty may face heavy fines or imprisonment in extreme cases. Mere exposure to risk is enough for a duty holder to be prosecuted, even without any individual becoming ill.

For further information or if you have any concerns regarding this topic, please contact a member of the Property team at Edwin Coe.

Please note that this blog is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content of this blog.

Edwin Coe LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales (No. OC326366) and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. A list of members of the LLP is available for inspection at our registered office: 2 Stone Buildings, Lincoln's Inn, London WC2A 3TH. "Partner" denotes a member of the LLP or an employee or consultant with the equivalent standing. Our privacy notice which we are obliged to give you under the GDPR is available here.

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