Through ignorance or neglect, many businesses are dangerously flouting water safety regulations. Cornwall-based environmental hygiene expert QES ltd offers some advice on how to take the first steps to compliance with the minimum of disruption.
Many businesses today feel they are already bogged down with an exhaustive list of legislative requirements for the ‘safe’ running of their premises.
But while most of us are familiar with the fire safety or gas safety requirements, it is a fact that in excess of 85% of businesses are failing to properly address their most basic need – the proven supply of clean and safe water.
At QES, we are currently embarking on a national programme to help businesses meet their compliance needs. In most cases, the amount of work required is minimal, but it is still vital that checks are done.
And as we do rounds and speak to businesses, here are some of the questions that crop up time and again.
Q. So what are the requirements?
A. This is purely the legal bit! Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, COSHH regulations, and Management of H & S at Work Regulations, those responsible for the maintenance of their water systems must take steps to identify the risk and subsequently implement adequate measures for managing and controlling legionella bacteria. The HSE’s Approved Code of Practice (L8) gives clear guidance on how this can be achieved.
Q. How does this affect my business?
A. Cases of Legionnaires disease have rocketed over the last three years, mainly due to significantly improved diagnoses. Any water system has the potential to contain the legionella bacteria so it is important to minimise the risks at the earliest opportunity. The media profile of legionella outbreaks is also on the increase due to a number of fatalities in hospitals, hotels and offices – both in the UK as well as abroad.
Q. We only have a wash basin, kitchen sink and WC – surely this doesn’t affect us?
A. The law says that it does. The assessment of risk is proportionate with the number of outlets so the necessary steps still need to take place.
Q. So where do I start?
A. Whatever the size of your business, the first step is to undertake and record a risk assessment. This will identify any problems with your water system very quickly and will highlight any potential areas that could encourage the growth and spread of the legionella bacteria.
Q. Can I do my own risk assesment?
A. A lot of other companies won’t give you an honest answer here – because it is possible for you to do some (or all) of the required activities yourself. As always there is a ‘but’ as it can depend on your type of business and the level of your knowledge and experience. QES will happily advise businesses on their first steps.
Q. What will I have to do next?
A. With any luck very little! We usually find that the first risk assessment uncovers remedial plumbing works that need to be carried out to make the water supply compliant. However once this work is carried out, and the supply properly managed, future risk assessments should uncover very few problems indeed.
Q. Is the industry governed by a professional body?
A. The Legionella Control Association (LCA) is an independent body set up by the Water Management Society and the British Association of Chemical Specialities, in full consultation with the Health and Safety Executive, to formulate a code of conduct for legionella control service providers. QES is a prominent member of the LCA and are, in fact, the only member in Cornwall.
Q. I often use spa and pool facilities in my leisure time. How do I know they are safe?
A. Spa pools, Jacuzzis, hot tubs and swimming pools are all perfectly safe if managed correctly. In order to ascertain whether the facilities you use are safe, simply ask whether a legionella risk assessment has been carried out and whether regular monitoring and sampling is undertaken.
Q. There are always scare stories surrounding legionnaire’s disease from air conditioning. Is there any truth in this?
A. Modern air conditioning units tend to be closed refrigerated systems which pose very little risk. However there are still a large number of the ‘humidifying’ systems in use which can, if not properly maintained, significantly increase the risk of an outbreak.
Q. Surely this is just another way to extract money from hard-pressed businesses?
A. This is something we get all of the time! We usually recommend that anyone requiring further information should visit the Health and Safety Executive website which has a comprehensive section on legionella control. You can also contact the Environmental Health Officers at Cornwall Council for independent guidance.
Q. How can I find out more?
A. QES regularly runs a number of training courses, from half day to four day, covering the issues raised above. As a special offer for Business Cornwall readers, we are offering our half day ‘Basic Awareness’ course throughout August and September for just £25 per delegate! (please quote ref: BC 0809). This course is a beginner’s guide to the ACOP (L8) legislation and outlines what steps you can take yourself to ensure your water supply is legally compliant and safe. Class sizes never exceed twelve delegates so there is always plently of time for questions and answers specific to your business. This really is the best way to get started!
For more information contact QES Ltd