Conventional wisdom has it that most cases of Legionnaires’ disease associated with water systems in the built-environment could have been prevented and therefore should not have occurred. The law underpins this by placing statutory obligations of duty holders, employers and others in control of premises that pose a Legionellosis risk to users.The HSE’s Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) L8 provides advice about how to comply with the law; including duties under the following legislation:
- Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974;
- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH), 2002.
If you follow the advice contained in L8, the publication informs us “you will be doing enough to comply with the law”. However, it follows this by stating that if you are prosecuted and it is proved that you did not follow the Code “you will need to show that you have complied with the law in some other way or a Court will find you at fault”.
The HSE has also published technical guidance known as HSG274; which provides “practical advice on the legal requirements” of the above legislation “concerning the risk from exposure to legionella and guidance on compliance with the relevant parts of the Management of Health Safety at Work Regulations, 1999.
COSHH and the Management of Health Safety at Work Regulations both identify a requirement to undertake risk assessments and highlight the importance, as far as reasonably practicable, of preventing or, where prevention is not possible, controlling risks. Another common theme of the Regulations is the need for suitable information, instruction and training to be provided for all staff on the risks & the control measures to be put in place.
The sum of which amounts to Legionnaires’ disease being a foreseeable risk that, following a predefined management process, can be minimised by implementing a scheme of control measures that is effective and reasonable i.e. without undue cost when compared to the nature of the risk. A lack of knowledge is not considered a reasonable legal defence when serious illness and/or fatalities occur because of poorly managed building water systems.
HSE Approved Code of Practice L8 
In the event of serious harm or fatalities, grossly negligent hotel operators may face charges of corporate manslaughter a criminal offence tantamount to manslaughter and if found guilty will face sentencing that allows for unlimited fines, remedial orders and publicity orders. Individuals who fail to discharge their own duties can face imprisonment and/or a financial penalty. It’s therefore of paramount importance that individuals with responsibility, either operationally or managerially, understand their role within the organisation and have sufficient knowledge of the risks to enable them to work effectively with others to deliver safe building water systems.
L8 makes specific reference to the appointed responsible person as follows:
“It is important … to have sufficient authority, competence and knowledge of the installation to ensure that all operational procedures are carried out effectively and in a timely way.
It goes on to say, in order to ensure that tasks are completed in a technically competent manner, that anyone specifically appointed to implement the control measures should be:
- suitably informed & instructed
- properly trained; and
- assessed for their suitability.
Furthermore, all employees involved in work that carries with it a risk from Legionella bacteria should receive suitable & sufficient information, instruction and training – the training needs be applicable for their role / responsibilities. As such management training to cover those in senior roles and at the other end of the spectrum training for those who undertake temperature monitoring, flushing and possibly cleaning of showers. Organisations should keep records of all training received, regularly review training needs and provide regular refresher training.
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