Legionella awareness training: Have you done yours yet?

Posted on 13th Jul, 2016 | By Lorretta Tatham

The recent breakout of Legionnaires’ disease in Sydney has brought this infectious disease back into the limelight. While it’s a safety risk that too often comes second to issues like working from a height or manual handling, coming into contact with the bacteria can be fatal. With this in mind, we’re focusing on the risks of Legionella bacteria and how you can ensure health and safety at work. We’ll also be telling you all about our Legionella Awareness Training Course, designed to help increase your awareness and reduce your risk at work.

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionella testing

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious infection of your lungs, caused by Legionella bacteria. The bacteria is found in contaminated mist and vapour in the air, which is then breathed into the lungs.

Initial symptoms are similar to that of flu – making it hard to diagnose in the early stages. Once the bacterium begins to infect your lungs, you may also experience a persistent cough, shortness of breath and chest pains. Symptoms begin around seven days after exposure to Legionella bacteria – so the illness progresses relatively quickly.

Legionnaires’ disease is rare but is still a major risk to those working with water systems. In 2013, 284 people in England and Wales contracted the disease. In the latest report issued by the HSE in June, which identifies reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease on a monthly basis, 28 had contracted the disease in May and 140 since January 2016.

Who is at risk of Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionella inspection

If you work with water systems, you may find yourself at risk. While Legionella is usually found in sources of natural water – like ponds and lakes – it can also be found in artificial systems like air conditioning systems.

Typically, those that work with the following may be at risk of Legionella exposure at work:

  • Cooling towers
  • Evaporating condensers
  • Wet and dry cooling systems
  • Hot and cold water systems
  • Spa pools

One of the problems with Legionella is that it grows fast when exposed to the right conditions. With a water temperature of 20-45 degrees Celsius and impurities that the bacteria can use for food, Legionella can become a problem.

Managing the risks of Legionella

As an employer or employee, you need to make sure that health and safety at work are guaranteed. It’s essential that employers and their workers take responsibility for identifying any potential risk and are competent to put the proper controls – should standards not be up to scratch.

To appropriately manage the risk, we recommend:

  • Carrying out a risk assessment and following through with the appropriate action.
  • Putting controls in place to control risk.
  • Carrying out monitoring, inspection and maintenance procedures.
  • Wearing appropriate PPE – such as gloves and a mask.

We also recommend our Legionella Awareness Course – designed to give you a good understanding of the disease and the bacteria. The course covers all your legal duties and how to prevent and control the risks of Legionella. To find out more, visit our Legionella training course page today or call our enquiries team on 01282 615517.

Do you have any other tips with respect to the control of Legionella? If so, please leave your tips and advice in the comments below or over on Twitter @Brownssafety

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