Legionella: What’s Your Responsibility?

When it comes to legionella, agents have a legal responsibility to ensure the health and safety of their tenants by keeping the property safe and free from health hazards, whether they let a home or room within a home. Overall, it’s an agent’s duty to assess the risk of legionella to ensure the safety of the tenants. This doesn’t require an in-depth, detailed assessment.

Assessing The Risk

Most agents can assess the risk of legionella themselves should they feel competent and understand the water system. Agents are not required by law to keep a record of the assessment; this is only law for employers with five or more employees. It’s recommended agent’s keep a record for their purpose and benefit should a legal case occur.

The assessment should include a site survey of the water system. It’s important water is not left to stagnate such as in student accommodation. Careful management is required. Outlets on hot and cold water systems should be used at least once a week to maintain a degree of water flow. A suitable flushing regime should be implemented or a drainage system should it remain vacant for long periods.

What Should The Assessment Include?

Throughout the assessment, it’s important to identify:

  • Whether water is stored or re-circulated as part of the system. (areas of risk include water tanks, dead legs, shower heads and/or long runs of pipe wok containing warm water)
  • Whether the water in some or all parts of the system is between 20 to 45 degrees celsius (hot water should be stored in any tanks at 60 degrees celsius)
  • Whether there are sources of nutrients such as rust, sludge, scale and organic matters.
  • Whether there are parts of the system that are used infrequently e.g guest bathrooms.
  • Whether it’s likely any tenants, residents or visitors may be more at risk of infection due to age, health or lifestyle and whether they could be exposed to water droplets.
  • The risk assessment does not have to be reviewed on an annual or biannual basis. A review of the assessment should be carried out periodically, such as when a gas safety check is carried out.
  • HSE and the Local Authority do not inspect properties or ask for evidence but should a tenant contract legionella an agent would be liable for prosecution and would have to prove to the court that they fulfilled their legal duty.
  • All control measures put in place should be communicated back to the tenants (e.g not to adjust the temperature of the calorifier).

The information in this blog is believed to be factually accurate at the time of writing the blog, VTUK cannot be held liable for any decisions made based on the contents of this blog.

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