Premises operators have a wide variety of duties when it comes to providing a safe environment for all those who spend time on the site. Part of this lies in ensuring the provision of a safe, contaminant-free water source.
One of the more serious hazards associated with water sources is Legionnaires’ disease, a disease that affects an estimated 100,000 per year in the U.S. With a mortality rate of around 10% in healthy individuals, it’s clearly a hazard that necessitates serious attention.
Legionnaires’ disease is a highly dangerous form of atypical pneumonia. In both healthy and vulnerable individuals, it can be deadly – the first identified outbreak, at an American Legion convention in 1976, led to the death of 29 people, out of the 182 individuals who became sick. Clearly, avoiding such breakouts is of paramount concern for all business owners.
Legionnaires’ disease is spread via the inhalation of water droplets that contain the bacteria Legionella pneumophila in high enough concentrations. While the bacteria is commonly found in a wide variety of natural water sources, it only proliferates to dangerously high concentrations when certain environmental conditions are present.
Where does Legionella pneumophila thrive?
To understand how we can prevent Legionnaires’ disease, we first need to understand what conditions lead to Legionella pneumophila proliferation. Legionella pneumophila thrives in stagnant and recirculated water sources between 20-45 C. As a result, an essential part of Legionnaires’ prevention lies in water temperature management.
Warm water that needs to be stored should be kept at a minimum of 60 C. cool water that needs to be stored should be kept at a maximum temperature of 20 C. In order to ensure that these temperatures are maintained, it is generally necessary to monitor temperatures using temperature measurement devices.
Identifying and assessing risks
An integral step in the process of mitigating the risk of Legionnaires’ disease lies in conducting Legionella risk assessments. A legionella risk assessment will need to be undertaken by external teams, so make sure that you do your research when finding an appropriate provider. Risk assessments will identify potential risk sources, record monitoring and inspection results, as well as laying out management structures and responsible persons.
Flushing pipes and water systems
While in some cases it’s necessary to store water in suitable containers, water can often be left stagnant unnecessarily in pipe systems. For example, if water is left in a pipe in a hotel room that’s unoccupied for a long period of time, it might be impossible to monitor the temperature in that section of the pipe.
Legionella pneumophila could multiply to dangerously high levels during that period, and when someone eventually occupies the room and turns on the tap, they could inhale dangerous levels of the bacteria and become ill.
Simply ensuring that pipe systems are regularly and methodologically flushed can be enough to avoid disasters such as this.
It’s crucial that you take and upkeep preventative measures, not only for regulation compliance, but for health and safety for yourself and those around you.