7 Deadly Sins of Water Hygiene Risk Assessments

by Water Hygiene Centre, on 26-10-2017
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Health and safety regulations and guidance require all risks from exposure to Legionella bacteria to be identified and evaluated.

Here, we discuss how these “Risk Assessments” can be undertaken and managed incorrectly, in the form of the 7 deadly sins.


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If the same scope of risk assessment is agreed and the specifications are met, why do they vary in price between suppliers?

With organisations’ resources being finite, it is very tempting to opt for the cheapest risk assessment to save precious money. But be aware that if it is too good to be true, it probably is. Some risk assessments are used as the driver for follow up remedial work, this can be where the contractor will re-coup there losses.



It is important that the risk assessment scope is agreed at the project planning stage. This will ensure you receive the work you expect and you are not paying for anything you do not need. Risk assessments can be “over-spec’d” meaning that money and resource is wasted.

Is it necessary for a risk assessment to take water temperatures from every outlet?

A risk assessor would learn more about a system by examining temperature records over a period of time, (assuming that equipment used is calibrated and the person trained) instead of a brief snapshot. An appraisal of sentinel outlets should be performed, temperatures taken at those outlets, then a follow up investigation of surrounding outlets if temperatures are non-compliant, to find the solution.

Long lists of temperatures are not useful to anyone, problems and recommendations are, so do not pay for something you already do on a monthly basis, and also deplete your hot water system at the same time.



Too many risk assessments are stacked with data and numbers. Details of equipment and long lists of assets with no assessment or evaluation following. As well as “satisfying” you that the assessor has “inspected” everything, the contractor now has everything they need to cost follow up remedial works. The assessment has become a quoting exercise, a short term gain for you but a loss in the long run.



As discussed in the previous blog ‘Risks of not completing a Legionella Risk Assessment at the right time’, a risk assessment is not a “one off exercise” but a “live document”. Risk assessments should not be shelved as a tick box exercise, but regularly reviewed and updated as necessary.

By using a Legionella Risk Assessment Review tool, you will not fail to do what you should be doing, by acting in “anticipation of, rather than in response to changes”. (The Water Hygiene Centre will be soon offering these review tools for free in an upcoming article. Please subscribe to our email updates using the form on the right-hand side of the page, to ensure you don’t miss out).



Risk assessments should not be viewed as a critique of you and your water system, neither should a risk assessor be viewed as a hindrance.

Risk assessors are there to assess your risks and propose ways to eliminate or minimise these risks. The more information and help they receive the more accurate and helpful the risk assessment will be.

Do you have all records and assets prepared for inspection?

Have you supplied the risk assessor with a competent escort who is familiar with the systems?

The risk assessment is critical to the preparation of the written scheme / Water Safety Plan, so the perspective that a risk assessor is there to “help” you and not use up valuable time and resource, will benefit you in the long term.



What works in one situation, may not work in another.

A risk assessment can be extremely generic, whether it has copy and pasted text from guidance or that recommendations are taken from another property’s risk assessment.

A risk assessor will use their knowledge and experience to “make practical recommendations to control any risk identified to ALARP”, however, sometimes you may and can make alternative solutions, but that should not discredit the assessor.

Control measures should be specific to that system (not copied from guidance) and proportionate to the risk. They should also contain the views of the personnel involved in the operation and maintenance of that system.



A risk assessment is a requirement by law and should not be ignored. They are undertaken by people with specialist knowledge and experience.

Whereas you may know your water systems better than they do, their advice and recommendations should not be ignored. It should be full of ways to help minimise the risk of bacterial growth, but it may also include things that you do not want to hear.

Whilst identifying companies to assist with assessing the risk of Legionella is relatively straightforward, how can you be sure that the services are fit for purpose and will help to discharge your legal obligations? The answer, increasingly, is accreditation. The Water Hygiene Centre is one of only twelve companies within the UK to have gained the UKAS ISO/IEC 17020:2012 accreditation for Legionella Risk Assessments, aiding competency, impartiality and integrity.

Ignore at your peril, risk assessments can suddenly become a very important and useful document if the worst should happen.

Editors Note: The information provided in this blog is correct at date of original publication - October 2017. 

© Water Hygiene Centre 2019

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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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