HSE reminder on water systems safety in lockdown

21 May 2020

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has reminded building occupiers, businesses and other duty holders restarting operations after the COVID-19 shutdown to review their water systems maintenance arrangements to avoid creating a public health hazard from waterborne bacteria such as legionella.

Health experts have warned that water stagnation, poor temperature control and increased levels of contamination may create a hazard in water systems that have been less frequently used than normal — such as in dental or out-patient facilities — or where operation has been suspended, such as in leisure, sports, swimming and spa pool facilities.

To prevent such situations leading to outbreaks of Legionnaire’s disease, dutyholders are being advised to control the risks from build-up of legionella bacteria before recommencing operations.

Employers, the self-employed and people in control of premises such as landlords, have a duty to identify and control risks associated with legionella.

The following may particularly be affected:

  • hot and cold water systems

  • cooling towers and evaporative condensers

  • commercial spa pools and hot tubs.

Detailed guidance on legionella and safer working during the coronavirus outbreak, including in the above three scenarios, is available via the HSE website.

In the case of water systems supplying “critical systems”, such as hospitals, these should be continuously maintained in accordance with the Department of Health and Social Care technical memorandum, Safe Water in Healthcare Premises (HTM 04-01).

Public Health England has published a leaflet covering the types of occupiers that need to take action, carry out risk assessments and implement mitigation measures.