Legionella control is incredibly important for schools and it is a risk management process that must be carefully managed to ensure the health and safety of students. The consequences of not managing legionella in schools can be extremely serious, including significant health risks to students, staff, and members of the general public. Therefore, it is essential legionella is managed effectively in schools.
In this article I will share my top tips for managing legionella in your school environment, so you can prioritise the health and well-being of everyone working and studying in that environment.
What is Legionella?
Legionnaires’ disease is a bacterium that is widely spread in water systems that are not properly managed. Although legionella naturally lives in water, it is not found in high enough numbers to be a risk. However, outbreaks occur when the water is not properly maintained and is, therefore, at an optimum temperature to encourage the growth of the bacteria. This means that any water system in a school with the right environmental conditions could potentially be a source of legionella bacteria growth. Legionnaires’ disease is potentially fatal and can affect anybody, but children are particularly at risk.
Your Water System is at Risk if:
- Water is stored or re-circulated as part of your system.
- The water temperature in all or some of the system is between 20-45 degrees Celsius.
- There are sources of nutrients such as sludge, rust, scale, and organic matters.
- The conditions will encourage bacteria to multiply.
- It is possible for water droplets to be produced and dispersed.
Have Clearly Defined Obligations
One of the best ways to manage legionella in schools is to have clearly defined obligations that must be fulfilled. Owners, facilities managers, operators, and staff of school facilities must have clearly defined obligations to help with the management and control of Legionella.
Legionella Risk Assessments are Mandatory
In the UK, legionella risk assessments are mandatory. The reason for this is because Legionnaire’s is a very high risk for schools and children need extra protection from legionella infections. Having a regular risk assessment regime can help keep your school safe from the spread of Legionnaires’ Disease and all its causes.
Assess the Risks in Your Washrooms
One of the ways to manage legionella in schools is by assessing risks in your school washrooms. The ways you can do this is by taking steps to control risks, reducing the likelihood of legionnaires’ disease.
Any place in your school that uses water or stores it is at an increased risk of legionella. Therefore, it is always better to prevent an outbreak than to treat one.
The Duty Holder is Responsible for Assessing the Risk
In order to effectively manage legionella in schools, you need to name someone solely responsible for assessing the risk. In schools, that would be the duty holder. The duty holder is responsible for ensuring that all sufficient assessments are carried out to identify the risks of exposure to the Legionella bacteria from activities and water systems on the school premises. If you’ve elected your duty holder to assess all legionella risk at your school, you must ensure he or she has been properly trained to do so.
Keep Records of All Legionella Management Assessments
When managing legionella in schools, it is important to keep a record of all assessments, so you know what has been done when and you can also offload any information to the authorities if required. Your assessment records should include details about the following:
- Any significant findings of the risk assessment.
- The results of any inspection, test, or check carried out – including the dates.
- The written control scheme and its implementation.
These records should be kept in a safe place for at least two years after they are relevant. Records kept in accordance with inspections must be retained for at least five years.
A Break Down of Assessment Tasks
To make things easier for you, I thought that I’d write out a list of simple management techniques to help manage legionella in schools.
Once a week, it is important all outlets and showers are flushed out. This ensures no stagnant water is left in the pipes to grow bacteria, helping to keep the risk of Legionnaires’ disease low.
Every month, water temperatures should be monitored and recorded at the outlets nearest to and furthest from the storage tanks and water heaters. What’s more, a programme should be set that ensures all taps in the building are checked at least once a year. This is generally a good task to set for the duty or site manager.
All shower heads and hoses should be carefully dismantled every quarter and then thoroughly cleaned and descaled. When this has been done, the action should be recorded. Again, this is a good job for the site manager to take care of.
Every Six Months
The cold-water storage tanks should be checked and thoroughly inspected every six months. Temperatures should be recorded in addition to the general temperatures and conditions.
Once a Year
The condition of the school’s water tanks should be reviewed annually. If any organic material, vermin, or water deterioration is identified, it must be remedied as soon as possible. All conditions need to be recorded and quality addressed where required, and a sample must be taken from the drain outlet.
Call in the Professionals
Although cases of legionnaires’ disease are rare, it is something we must caution and protect our schools against. In 2015 there were 388 known cases of legionnaires disease in England and Wales alone. This disease needs to be taken seriously and if you manage a school, it is mandatory you organise regular legionella testing.
If you do not have anyone properly trained and qualified to carry out legionella testing in your school, you must call a professional legionella assessment team to do the job for you. It is imperative we protect schools, the children who learn in them, the staff who teach in them, and the members of the public who visit them, from legionnaires’ disease. And this can be easily achieved by managing legionella in schools carefully and efficiently all year round.