Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia. Everyone and anyone is susceptible to infection. The risk, as with many illnesses, increases with age but some are at a higher risk than other, such as:
- people over 45 years of age
- smokers and heavy drinkers
- people suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease
- diabetes, lung and heart disease
- anyone with an impaired immune system
How do people get it?
Legionnaires’ disease can be contracted by inhaling small droplets of water (aerosols) suspended in the air which contain bacteria. There are certain conditions which increase the risk of legionella, such as:
- the water temperature in all or some parts of the system may be between 20-45°C, which is suitable for bacteria growth
- it is possible for breathable water droplets to be created and dispersed e.g. aerosol created by a cooling tower, or water outlets
- water is stored and/or re-circulated
- there are deposits that can support bacterial growth providing a source of nutrients for the organism e.g. rust, sludge, scale, organic matter and biofilms
As a landlord, what are my duties?
Those organisations or individuals who provide residential accommodation or who are responsible for the water systems in their premises are responsible for ensuring that the risk of exposure to legionella in those premises is properly assessed and controlled.
All water systems require an assessment of the risk which can be carried out by the individual if they are competent, or employ somebody who is.
Control measures which can help to control the risk are simple:
- flush out the system prior to letting the property
- avoiding debris getting into the system (e.g. Ensure the cold water tanks, where fitted, have a tight fitting lid)
- setting control parameters (e.g. setting the temperature of the calorifier to ensure water is stored at 60°C)
- Make sure any redundant pipework identified is removed.
Ensure tenants are advised of any control measures put in place which should be maintained. For example, ensuring tenants are aware not to adjust the temperature of the clarifier, to regularly clean shower heads and to inform the landlord if the hot water is not heating properly.
Landlords have a duty to ensure the property their tenants reside in is safe and complies to Health and Safety regulations. More details on the disease can be found here on the HSE website. Alternatively, give your local letting agent a call for further information.