The importance of performing legionella risk assessments in UK businesses

Manchester office

On average, there are approximately 200-250 reported confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease each year in England and Wales and it is thought that the total number of cases may be underestimated. – UK.Gov.

Ensuring your business is compliant with Legionella health and safety standards is essential to maintain the wellbeing of you and your staff.

Why is it important for my business to have a Legionella plan in place?

Businesses must comply with the legislation set by the HSE, failure to comply can result in fines, business closure and serious health and safety risks.

Legionella risk assessment companies are able implement a Legionella management plan to ensure your water systems are compliant with HSE standards. Landlords and property managers (or whoever assumes the role of coordinating Legionella risk assessments) are responsible for arranging assessments or carrying it out themselves (if competent).

Keeping on top of your Legionella management policy is essential and will eliminate the risk of contamination. 

When to book a risk assessment

While there are no laws governing when you should arrange a risk assessment, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advise that water systems should be reviewed periodically in the interest of the tenants and occupants of the building. Checks can be made during routine gas safety and maintenance visits

However, if your water system has recently been replaced, a risk assessment is strongly advised to ensure the settings are in accordance with HSE and ACOP L8. If undergoing an assessment risks of exposure are discovered, you are obliged under under HSE and ACOP L8 to put in place an adequate legionella control regime.

What areas are assessed?

Businesses that utilise the following water systems are able to undergo a Legionella risk assessment:

  • Cooling towers & evaporative condensers
  • Hot & cold water systems
  • Air conditioning units
  • Swimming pools and Jacuzzis

Both domestic and commercial properties require Legionella risk assessments if they are utilising any of the above.

Whose responsibility is it to arrange these checks? 

For residential properties (landlords)

Landlords of both domestic properties are responsible for ensuring a Legionella risk assessment is carried out. However, this does not mean they have to carry the assessment out themselves (but they are able to so long as they are competent). Additionally, there is a legal duty for landlords to assess and control the risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria.

The RLA states that:

“Landlords are under a duty to ensure that the risk of exposure to tenants, residents and visitors by Legionella is properly assessed and controlled. Normally there is no reason why the landlord should not carry out this risk assessment himself/herself so long as they are competent.”

For businesses (commercial properties)

For businesses, the person responsible is often assigned the role (maintenance managers etc). Again, they are responsible for ensuring standard health and safety are enforced but do not have to carry-out the assessment themselves. Instead, they can opt for a Legionella management company to oversee the assessment.

Failure to comply

In the UK alone, there are approximately 200-250 reported and confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease each year, and Gov claim that it is likely that the total number of cases may be underestimated.

While it’s easy to blame landlords and commercial property managers (or whoever assumes the role), HSE’s reluctance to enforce Legionella compliance nationwide also shoulders the blame.

Failure to comply with the legislation will result in fines and the potential closure of the property as well as endangering the health and safety of the tenants and occupants (this can be fatal).

How much does a risk assessment cost?

Your property will be assessed to find out how many water systems are running, only then will a company be able to provide a specific quote.

On average, large businesses (hotels, corporate businesses with several staff) can expect to pay between £450+ for a Legionella risk assessment, whereas smaller properties (dental clinics, cafes etc) can expect to pay around £200+.