The Importance of Legionella Risk Assessments in Hotels

legionella hotelsThe hotel industry is essential for serving the hospitality needs of the general public and while the majority of hotels will never experience an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, it is essential hotels carry out the relevant risk assessments. After all, the only guaranteed way to prevent a legionella outbreak is by understanding what legionella is, how an outbreak can happen, and how to prevent the spread of the bacteria in a hotel environment.

This article will look at what Legionella disease is, the typical symptoms associated with it, how it’s contracted, and how hotel managers can take practical steps to prevent and control legionella in their hotels.

Legionnaires’ Disease is Preventable

The first thing you need to know about Legionella is that it is a preventable disease, if the correct risk assessments and procedures are followed correctly. It is vital for everyone in the hospitality industry to ensure the safety of both their employees and their guests, for general health and safety but also to uphold the hotels reputation.

What is Legionnaires’ Disease?

It’s all well and good giving advice on the importance of risk assessments for legionella prevention in hotels, but if you don’t know what legionella is – it won’t make any sense! So, here’s a quick explanation about Legionnaires’ disease.

Legionnaires’ disease is a bacteria (a type of pneumonia) that can cause a serious lung infection that, if left without treatment, can sometimes be fatal. People most prone to contracting Legionnaires’ disease are:

  • Those who are already ill.
  • The elderly
  • Pregnant women
  • Those with bad health
  • Drinkers and Smokers

However, it is worth noting that around 85 – 90% of people infected with Legionnaires’ disease do recover after treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Legionnaires’ Disease?

Legionnaires’ disease has some common symptoms; however, these can often be mistaken for the flu, so it is important you check with your doctor. The symptoms include; headaches, fever, aches and pains, tiredness, shortness of breath, a productive cough, and more. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is essential you get checked by your doctor right away.

How Can You Catch Legionnaires’ Disease?

There are numerous ways you can catch Legionnaires’ disease, which is why it’s essential to have the proper risk assessments in place – so that the likelihood of contracting the disease is significantly diminished.

Commonly, people catch Legionnaires’ disease from water droplets that are carrying the disease. These are inhaled in the air from water mist from a contaminated shower outlet, fine water droplets from a cooling tower, or spray from a water feature (just to give a few examples). However, if your hotel has a water system that is properly maintained, there should be no concern regarding the risk of developing Legionnaires’ disease.

Where Are the Key Risk Areas in Hotels?

When preventing Legionnaires’ disease, it is important you know which areas of your hotel are more prone to the bacteria. Since Legionella is a water-borne disease, the bacteria can contaminate water droplets in any part of the hotel that has water present. Therefore, there are obvious areas where water is present, such as shower heads and taps, but there are also less obvious areas, such as the following:

  • Indoor water features
  • Condensers
  • Food displays using humidified air
  • Cooling towers and air conditioning systems
  • Water pipes that are irregularly used
  • Pipework that has become corroded

Basically, the warmer the water is, the greater the risk of Legionnaires’ disease developing. If left untreated or even poorly maintained, the water features and systems in your hotel can become prone to legionella contaminations.

How to Reduce the Risk of Legionella in Hotels

So, now that you know what Legionnaires’ disease is, where it can be found, and the symptoms it can cause, let’s take a look at how you can reduce the risk of Legionella in your hotel.

It goes without saying that the risk of Legionnaires’ disease can be reduced in hotels if certain steps, such as risk assessments, are taken. For example, you can hire an individual whose sole responsibility it is to control Legionella within the hotel. This person must be properly trained and have a thorough understanding of the disease and should also receive official legionella training to ensure they know how to reduce the risk in your hotel.

Here are some other tips on how to reduce the risk of Legionella in hotels:

  • Cold water in the hotel must be kept cold (20 degrees Celsius or below).
  • Hot water should always be circulating to prevent stagnation.
  • All water outlets (showers, baths, sink taps) should be flushed through once a week – at a minimum – before hotel rooms can be occupied.
  • All water outlets should be regularly checked and descaled.

What You Need to Keep Clean to Avoid Legionella

When you work in the hotel industry, there are certain areas you need to prioritise properly cleaning and maintaining to ensure you avoid Legionella. These are listed below:

  • Cooling towers should be cleaned every six months at a minimum but must be inspected more frequently if you suspect there are any problems.
  • Air conditioning systems and pipework must be cleaned every six months.
  • Water filters must be cleaned a minimum of four times a year.
  • Hot water heaters and storage tanks should be cleaned annually.

Checking and regularly maintaining other areas of water in the hotel is also essential, including the treatment of hot tubs, spa pools, and other facilities, in order to prevent the growth and spread of legionella bacteria.

Hire a Professional Legionella Testing Service

While Legionella testing is not a legal requirement, it is essential for ensuring the health and safety of your employees and hotel guests. The best way to monitor the presence of Legionella in your hotel is by having a professional Legionella Control Service carry out the tests. This ensures testing is completed to the highest standard and also ensures the provision of any on-going support and advice, should you need it.

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