Consequences of Insufficient Legionella Training

by Water Hygiene Centre, on 20-02-2024
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Consequences of Insufficient Legionella Training

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) considers Legionnaires’ disease to be preventable and it’s therefore treated as such by the law. Moreover, health and safety laws underpin the statutory obligations of; duty holders, employers, or those in control of premises that pose a risk to occupiers concerning acquiring Legionnaires’ disease. 

Legionella Training - What does the guidance say?

The Approved Code of Practice (ACoP L8) provides specific advice on the health and safety law that applies and the associated duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and HSG274 (Parts 1,2 &3) provide law and guidance notes on how to comply with these duties – stressing that compliance is the ‘minimum requirement’ and should the recommendations detailed in HSG274 not be followed then compliance will need to be demonstrated by other means – to satisfy the HSE that risk has been suitably mitigated.




The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 also provides a broad framework for controlling health and safety at work and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) provides a framework for mitigating risks associated with hazardous substances – including biological agents such as Legionella.


COSHH identifies a requirement to provide a risk assessment and highlights the importance of preventing or controlling hazardous substances in as far as what’s considered reasonable and practicable, whilst stressing the importance of ensuring that staff are suitably trained on the risks associated with hazardous substances.


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These considerations form the backbone of Legionella risk assessments (conforming to the requirements of BS8580-1:2019) for which there is a legal requirement under health and safety law. Therefore, as Legionnaires’ disease is a foreseeable and preventable risk that can be suitably mitigated by a suitable management process - detailed in the site-specific risk assessment, a lack of knowledge is not considered a reasonable legal defence when individuals are affected by this pathogen because of poorly managed water distribution systems.


How important is Legionella Training?

Legionella TrainingMoreover, should acquiring this pathogen prove to be fatal – following a period of exposure from a poorly maintained water system and it’s beyond ‘all reasonable doubt’ that this pathogen was acquired from such a system then this may be considered a ‘criminal offence’. This offence would be tantamount to manslaughter - possibly resulting in imprisonment and a financial penalty for the duty holder and or those responsible for providing microbiologically safe water (depending on the devolution of responsibility within the hierarchy of authority within an organisation).


It’s therefore of paramount importance that; all buildings comprising a water distribution system are suitably assessed for Legionella risk and that all individuals with a responsibility (operationally and managerially) for the provision of microbiologically safe water, understand their role within the organisation’s hierarchy of authority and work together to deliver a service that protects the public from waterborne pathogens such as Legionella and complies with the law.


Read more about Legionella Training and how to undertake a proper risk assessment > 


Lack of Legionella training has resulted in the following:

  • Barrow Borough Council, the largest outbreak in the UK in 2002 resulted in a £125,000 fine to the Council and a £15,000 fine to the individual who should have been the Responsible Person but wasn’t appointed. 1 of 6 major failings related to a lack of training for the relevant staff.


  • Bupa, Brentwood care home Legionnaires' disease death in 2015: The manager was too busy to do necessary Legionella training. The HSE reported several failings in relation to temperature control, TMVs, dead legs, record keeping and not implementing recommendations.

  • Reading Borough Council was fined £100,000 following an investigation into the death of a pensioner who died in 2012 from exposure to Legionella. Legionella training for key personnel was significantly below the standard required.

  • Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals NHS FT was fined for the death of a susceptible patient in 2011. Due to serious control failures and a lack of sufficient instruction, training, and supervision to make an informed decision for appropriate action to be taken.

Articles like these highlight the considerable pressure to ensure the right steps are being taken to manage and assess the risk of exposure to legionella and how essential Legionella training is.


To ensure compliance with the aforementioned legal considerations and regulations, it’s advised that all key stakeholders (RP / AP / CP to name a few possible roles) with a water quality responsibility partake in water hygiene Legionella training and demonstrate key competencies in this regard.


The Water Safety Group (WSG) within its defined Terms of Reference has responsibility for developing and ensuring compliance to training matrices, which should be reviewed by the WSG periodically.

If you have questions regarding the issues raised above or you would like to speak with one of our consultants, please click here to get in touch.


Editors Note: The information provided in this blog is correct at the date of original publication - August 2017 (Revised February 2024).


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About the author

Water Hygiene Centre

The Water Hygiene Centre was established in 2009 to address the lack of independent water hygiene consultancy within the industry. From our humble beginnings, we have established ourselves as a market leader, helping clients identify and minimise the risk of waterborne contamination and disease, whilst improving compliance performance.

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