Legionella - Role of the Responsible Person and Duty Holder

by Charlie Brain, on 07-09-2022
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This blog hopes to answer questions received from our clients regarding the clarification of roles undertaken by the Dutyholder and the Responsible Person (Water).

Legionella - What does the law tell us?

 The Dutyholder: 

Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 refers to a person “who has, to any extent, control of premises” as being the Dutyholder. 

The HSE’s “quasi-legal” guidance document ACoP L8, refers to “employers and those with

responsibilities for the control of premises, e.g., landlords”


The Responsible Person(s): 

ACoP L8 describes this as “a competent person or persons to take day-to-day responsibility for controlling any identified risk from Legionella bacteria” 


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Roles & Responsibilities 

The Dutyholder is either the employer or the person in control of the premises, i.e., the Owner, chief executive, board of directors or others who are ultimately responsible. 

To comply with their legal duties, Dutyholders should:

  1. Identify and assess sources of risk;

  2. Prepare a written scheme for preventing or controlling the risk;

  3. Implement, manage and monitor precautions;

  4. Keep records of the precautions;

  5. Appoint a competent person, known as the ‘Responsible Person’.


The Dutyholder carries the ultimate responsibility for a safe and secure workplace environment. However, aspects of that responsibility can be assigned/delegated to other appointed individuals within an organisation.

In practice, many organisations appoint a Responsible Person (Water), who carries out the roles and responsibilities listed above, the Dutyholder will give that responsibility to them, but cannot relinquish the accountability.


The Responsible Person (Water)

The HSE’s ACOP L8 states that it is important for the Responsible Person (Water) to have;

  1. Sufficient authority, competence and knowledge of the installation to ensure that all operational procedures are carried out effectively and in a timely way;

  2. Legionella TrainingThose specifically appointed to implement the control measures and strategies should be suitably informed, instructed, have completed Legionella training and their suitability assessed;

  3. They must be properly trained to a level that ensures tasks are carried out in a safe, technically competent manner; and regularly refresh their water hygiene training;

  4. Keep records of all initial and refresher training.;

  5. The appointed responsible person should have a clear understanding of their role and the overall health and safety management structure and policy in the organisation.


If a duty holder is self-employed or a member of a partnership, and is competent, they may appoint themselves. The specific roles and responsibilities will depend on the size and complexity of the organisation or water system. However, suggested elements could be;

  1. Appointed in writing;

  2. Possess knowledge of water safety issues and appropriately trained;

  3. Sufficient authority to ensure procedures are completed accurately and timely;

  4. Chair the Water Safety Group (WSG) – ensuring papers and evidence are collated and issued timely;

  5. Work closely with other professionals within the WSG and external to the organisation i.e. Government Bodies & Agencies, Water Hygiene Companies and Authorising Engineer (Water) / External Water Hygiene Companies;

  6. Identification of potential risk areas or systems that are non-compliant;

  7. Development of the Water Safety Plan and ongoing review;

  8. Establish monitoring and compliance reporting processes;

  9. Ensure Legionella risk assessments are continually reviewed along with agreed action plans, updated as required;

  10. Auditing and verification process are established and are being delivered.


Multiple Duty Holders? 

The HSE’s HSG274 Part 2, does identify the possibility of multiple Duty Holders. Where buildings have landlords, leaseholders or tenants, an agreement must be in place detailing the responsibilities of each party. Examples of these situations include;

  • Landlord and single leaseholder/tenant – either party could take full responsibility or can be shared;

  • Multiple tenants – owner remains Dutyholder or takes common areas only and tenants take their areas;

  • Managing agent – agreement to specify responsibilities.


If no agreements or contracts are in place, then whoever has control of the premises retains all responsibility.


In all instances… 

Those persons within an organisation with key management responsibilities should be identified, with roles and responsibilities defined. Communication pathways are useful tools to help map out an organisation’s structure. All relevant persons shall fully appreciate the actual and potential risks of water safety and the concept of risk management.


Although compliance and management responsibility for Legionella management tasks may be delegated to others, or undertaken by external contractors, accountability cannot be delegated by the Dutyholder.


For more information about Water Hygiene Centre and our independent advisory services click here.

Editors Note: The information provided in this blog is correct at the date of original publication – September 2022. 

© Water Hygiene Centre 2022


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About the author

Charlie Brain

Charlie started the Water Hygiene Centre as a trainee risk assessor back in 2010, since then he has developed professionally from risk assessor, project manager and is now a Senior Consultant. During this time he has taken ownership of our risk assessment method and development of our bespoke reporting platform and has been key in our UKAS accreditation to 17020.

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