Educational institutions, universities, and academies play a crucial role in shaping the lives of countless students. These institutions strive to provide an enriching environment that promotes learning, growth, and personal development. However, one aspect often overlooked is ensuring the safety and well-being of students and staff. One potential health risk that should not be ignored is the presence of Legionella bacteria.
What are Legionella?
Legionella bacteria are responsible for causing Legionnaires' disease, a severe form of acute bacterial pneumonia. This bacteria thrives in warm water environments, such as cooling towers, hot water systems, water fountains, and other systems where the water temperature is typically between 20°C and 45°C. When inhaled, the bacteria can lead to serious health complications, particularly in individuals with weakened immune systems.
How can I manage Legionella?
A comprehensive Legionella checklist should be implemented to prevent the outbreak of Legionnaires' disease and maintain a safe environment within universities and academies. This checklist will serve as a guide for facility managers, maintenance personnel, and administrators to ensure necessary precautions are taken to prevent the growth and spread of Legionella bacteria. These actions will include:
- Conduct a Legionella Risk Assessment: Begin by conducting a thorough risk assessment of the water systems within the institution. Identify potential areas where Legionella bacteria could grow, such as cooling towers, cold water storage tanks, expansion vessels and showers. This assessment will help determine the level of risk and prioritise necessary actions.
- Develop a Water Safety Plan: Based on the Legionella risk assessment, develop a comprehensive water safety plan. This plan should include regular monitoring, maintenance, and cleaning procedures to prevent the growth of Legionella bacteria. Assign responsibilities to staff members to ensure accountability and carry out regular updates.
- Monitor Water Temperatures: Legionella bacteria thrive in warm water temperatures between 20-45°C. Regularly monitor water temperatures in all water systems, including showers, expansion/hot water vessels, and cold water tanks. Ensure that cold water is maintained below 20°C and hot water is heated to a temperature that inhibits bacterial growth; 60°C storage and minimum of 50°C on circulating systems.
- Implement Regular Cleaning and Disinfection: Establish a regular cleaning and disinfection schedule for all water systems. This includes routine legionella flushing regime of water outlets, cleaning showerheads, and disinfecting cooling towers (where installed). Following inspections, the cleaning and disinfection of cold water storage tanks, and water heaters may also be required. Use appropriate disinfectants and follow manufacturer instructions for effective results, ensuring compliance with British Standard PD855468:2015 Guide to the flushing and disinfection of services supplying water for domestic use within buildings and their curtilages.
- Educate Staff and Students: Raise awareness among staff and students about Legionnaires' disease and the importance of preventive measures. Provide information on recognising symptoms, such as high fever, cough, and muscle pain, and encourage prompt reporting to the appropriate authorities.
- Train Staff in Water Safety: Provide Legionella training to maintenance personnel on water safety and Legionella prevention. Equip them with the knowledge and skills to identify potential risks, carry out maintenance procedures, and respond to potential outbreaks promptly.
- Regularly inspect Water Systems: Conduct regular inspections of water systems, including pipes, tanks, and cooling towers. Look for signs of corrosion, biofilm formation, or other potential issues that could contribute to the growth of Legionella bacteria. Promptly address any identified problems to prevent further complications.
- Engage Professional Services: Consider an independent professional Legionella consultant or Authorising Engineer (Water), who can provide support and advice following relevant guidance. These experts can provide guidance on best practices, carry out thorough inspections, and offer recommendations tailored to the specific needs of the institution.
By implementing and regularly following this Legionella checklist, universities and academies can prioritise the health and safety of all individuals on their premises. Maintaining a safe water environment is vital for preventing the outbreak of Legionnaires' disease and ensuring a conducive learning environment for students. Let's make the safety of our educational institutions a top priority!
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Editors Note: The information provided in this blog is correct at the date of original publication – September 2023
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