Employers and landlords have certain legal responsibilities when it comes to assessing and controlling the risk of legionella exposure. If legionella testing is not carried out accurately, they could face fines and legal action.

Legionnaires disease is responsible for a significant number of deaths each year and steps need to be taken to prevent the spread of legionella bacteria in all commercial and rented properties.



What are the rules surrounding legionella testing?


Employers and landlords have health and safety responsibilities to anyone who enters their buildings. Whether you are renting an entire commercial property or one room in your own home, you are legally obliged to ensure the property is safe and free from any health hazards.

In its guidance about legionella, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is very clear that employers and landlords are required to ‘take reasonable steps to ensure that any control measures are properly used and applied.’

It also states that the approved code of practice for legionella applies to ‘any undertaking involving a work activity and to premises controlled in connection with a trade, business or other undertaking where water is used or stored and where there is a means of creating and transmitting water droplets which may be inhaled, thereby causing a reasonably foreseeable risk of exposure to legionella bacteria’.

However, there is sometimes confusion among employers and landlords about whether legionella testing is required or not.

To avoid confusion, there are two simple rules to remember:

1. All employers and landlords have a duty to understand and manage legionella risks.
2. All places of work and residential rental properties require a legionella risk assessment.


What legislation is in place?


The legislation set out in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 applies to all employers, landlords, commercial tenants and property managers. It states they must ensure a duty of care is shown to their employees and tenants with regard to their health and safety. It also states that they must carry out a legionella and water hygiene risk assessment where there is a ‘foreseeable risk of exposure to legionella bacteria’.

Guidance from the HSE gives situations in which legionella testing is mandatory. These include:

· When the legionella control regime used to treat a water system is thought to be inefficient
· When ideal water temperatures are not reached (i.e. hot water not hot enough and cold not cold enough)
· When there is uncertainty about concentrations of disinfectant in the system
· When the situation is considered high risk for another reason

How often should water systems be tested?


Legionella testing needs to take place all year round, with particular frequency during the warmer summer months when bacteria can spread easily.

Exact timings for legionella testing will be dictated by the results of the water hygiene risk assessment. Generally speaking, monthly tests are required on hot and cold sentinel taps, six monthly tests on incoming cold water inlets, and annual water tests on all commercial and rental properties.

If there are any doubts raised in the risk assessment, weekly legionella tests should be carried out. It is only after safe results are obtained consistently over a period of time that weekly testing can become monthly testing.

Cooling towers should also be tested regularly as they pose a higher risk. Tests looking for microbial activity and legionella bacteria should be carried out every three months unless any problems arise. If so, more regular testing is required until those issues are resolved.



Controlling the risk of legionella


There are a number of things you can do to ensure your property water supply remains free from legionella. These include:

· Regularly drain and flush the water system (especially if a property has been empty for some time)
· Clean and disinfect water outlets (including shower heads) and systems every six months
· Fit a tight lid over any cold water tanks so dirt and debris cannot enter
· Ensure the temperature setting is high enough on water tanks and immersions heaters
· Remove any redundant pipework



How to test for legionella


If a risk assessment identifies a reason for concern, you can test your water and water system using a specialist legionella testing kit. These can be posted to you and then sent back to a lab for testing. Once the samples have been tested, you will receive a test certificate or follow-up advice if legionella has been detected.

With our Legionella Testing Kit you’ll soon have peace of mind.