Last reviewed 7 April 2022

Falkirk Council has said lessons have been learned about the health risks of legionella in empty buildings after tests at its schools showed high levels of bacteria including legionella and pseudomonas in stagnant water systems, following the initial full lockdown from Covid-19.

The discovery led to the temporary closure of all early learning and additional support needs child care hubs at the height of the pandemic, when only key workers' children were attending school in person.

Councillors agreed to approve updated guidance on Legionnaires disease at a meeting of Falkirk Council's executive.

The Health and Safety Executive has been reminding employers of the increased risk of legionella from water systems while premises are unoccupied throughout the pandemic or those that have had low usage.

Buildings should have in place a risk assessment and a Water Safety Plan. Dormant water systems (including some types of air conditioning systems) will result in bacterial growth, especially in warmer weather. Legionella, which is naturally present in water systems, causes Legionnaires’ disease, which is fatal in 10% of cases. This can be avoided by following appropriate advice.

All aspects of the water management system should be reviewed before re-opening premises, and necessary action will be dependent on the complexities of the system.

In addition to regular flushing, additional control measures may include treating water to control the growth of legionella.

Employers, or persons in control of premises, are responsible for health and safety and need to take the right precautions to reduce the risks of exposure to legionella, ie:

  • identify and assess sources of risk

  • manage any risks

  • prevent or control any risks

  • keep and maintain the correct records

  • carry out any other duties.