The Importance of Correct Legionella Training

Legionella Training Online

‘Walkies, legionella’, ‘heel, legionella’, interesting thoughts to have with the title ‘Legionella Training’. Sadly, we’re not able to train legionella to behave in a certain way: now that would be amazing if we could ‘Out, damned spot*’ [*legionella] [Macbeth, act 5, scene 1].

Hopefully this article will be able to provide a more practical understanding when it comes to training in legionella. It is perhaps worth starting with the notion that ‘legionella courses’ have been around for decades, the requirement for suitable and sufficient training is a must in order to comply with regulations [Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations; COSHH Regulations] and guidance documents [HSE ACOP L8; HSG274 Parts 1, 2, 3; HTM04-01, SHTM04-01 and WHTM04-01]. Over time, all documentation has been updated and knowledge of legionella [including other waterborne pathogens, i.e. Pseudomonas aeruginosa] has increased. Needless to say, ‘legionella awareness’ needs to have evolved so that it

“provides employees with suitable and sufficient information, instruction….” [HSE ACOP L8, 4th edition (2014)].

This article will look at why training is needed, the importance of identifying who needs to be trained, what type of training based on their role and responsibilities and when training is to be completed.

Areas Discussed:

How Important is Legionella Training?

Do I Really Need Further Legionella Training?

How Do I Know Who Should Receive Legionella Training?

Legionella Training Courses for Infection Prevention and Control

Legionella Awareness for Hotel Workers

How Do I Know What Legionella Training Courses I Need?

How Can the Water Hygiene Centre Help Me with Legionella Training?

Training and Development, Orange Button on Computer Keyboard. Internet Concept.-1

How Important is Legionella Training?

The importance of training is a good question to ask! The reality being, how often do you hear about cases or outbreaks of ‘legionellosis’ [the term used to describe any illness caused by exposure to legionella] being reported in the news, either on the TV, radio or printed media? The fact is you hear about cases or outbreaks very rarely, they are deemed not interesting enough compared to a global pandemic, Brexit or the ‘goings on’ of a President!

That’s not to say cases or outbreaks are not occurring! Public Health England monitor and report on cases of legionnaires’ disease on a monthly basis [that said, throughout 2020 only two reports were produced due to the pandemic, whereas previous years there have been regular monthly reports]. These reports identify the sources of cases as:

  • Community acquired;
  • Travel UK;
  • Travel abroad;
  • Nosocomial.

The latest data PHE published in October 2020 details the number and proportion (%) of confirmed cases of Legionellosis by category of exposure for cases with symptom onset from 1 January to 31 October 2020:

(PHE exposure category legionella training

(Source: PHE, October 2020.)

"The HSE have detailed in the ACoP L8:

“Inadequate management, lack of training and poor communication are all contributory factors in outbreaks of legionnaires’ disease.”

Although we don’t get to hear about all these cases and outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease, they are occurring and occasionally do make the headlines. The largest outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the UK occurred in Barrow-in-Furness, August 2002 with 180 cases and seven deaths. The HSE investigation into the outbreak identified six failings, one of which related to training standards, more so the lack of training for key staff at the Council.

More recent outbreaks reported include, Bournemouth, June 2019, at a spa where 39 patrons reported symptoms and nine patrons were admitted to hospital for treatment. In October 2013 a confirmed case of Legionnaires’ disease was reported to Harlow Council, whereby the Environmental Health Officers were unable to confirm the effected employee had contracted this from the site at which he worked. Although, they did find a “serious lack of compliance” including staff receiving inadequate training in legionella. The employer was fined £1.8m.


Read more in the blog -  " Legionella - The Need for Sufficient Water Hygiene Training"


Do I Really Need Further Training in Legionella?

Further legionella training [and water safety] is more than likely going to be needed. The risk of legionella [and other waterborne pathogens] is one that needs continual management within an organisation.

SHTM04-01 Part B para 5.2 provides an overview for the need for ongoing training:

“The rate of change in building service technology is not great, but knowledge of harmful bacteria continues to grow and management should review the competence of staff on a regular basis, and refresher training should be given; records of training attendance would need to be maintained.”

With time, change happens… employees are promoted, some leave, new join and processes may change for documenting tasks completed. Examples of such change require a review of whether more training is needed, it might be that a new building manager has been recruited, who has had legionella awareness training with their previous employer, and this would be helpful! But training that is applicable to the new employer covering roles, governance policy arrangements, processes and documentation will be needed, for example Legionella Responsible Person training online. A newly recruited Competent Person to assist with temperature monitoring, flushing of outlets will also require this organisational specific training, with additional elements relating to the technical aspect of their role, for example Legionella Competent Person training.

This is not the end of training. We’ve established that initial training is a necessity and this training must be suitable and sufficient to a level that ensures they can deliver their roles and responsibilities safely and competently. The HSE have further detailed in ACoP L8 paragraph 51:

“… and receive regular refresher training. Keep records of all initial and refresher training.”

And in HSG274 Part 2 paragraph 18:

“Regular refresher training should be given and the responsible person(s) should have a clear understanding of their role and the overall health and safety management structure and policy in the organisation.”

Although, there is no indication of a frequency for ‘refresher training’ detailed in the above referenced documents. Reaching for further guidance on a frequency of training, the HSE HSG65 ‘Managing for Health and Safety details: “competence levels will drop if skills are not used on a regular basis – schedule refresher training at regular intervals.” Yet again, no frequency is detailed.


Read more in the blog - Responsible person - are you competent enough?




How Do I Know Who Should Receive This Training?

Identification of those involved in the management of legionella and water safety risk needs to be determined by the Water Safety Group [WSG], who have a responsibility to review training needs and ensure applicable training is then provided. Traditionally, those persons who have received training would have included:

  • Responsible Person [Water];
  • Deputy Responsible Person [Water];
  • Authorised Person [Water].

Although other persons are invariably involved with legionella / water safety precautions including [but not limited to and dependent on the size and type of the organisation]:

  • Competent Persons;
  • Head Teachers;
  • Ward / Department Managers;
  • Property / Building Managers;
  • Infection Prevention Control Managers / Nurses;
  • Cleaners / Domestics / Caretakers and Janitors
  • Housing Scheme Managers

A few more people than you may have initially thought!

With the WSG having established their ‘training needs analysis matrix’, the process has not ended, HTM04-01 Part B paragraph 6.28 states:

“The WSG should review the competence of staff on a regular basis, and refresher training should be given; records of training attendance need to be maintained.”

One of the responsibilities of the WSG is to review training needs analysis routinely [i.e. possibly each WSG meeting], confirming those involved and whether they’ve completed the applicable training for their role; the date when the training was completed to determine when refresher training is needed; possibly including an anniversary date for training to be refreshed / updated regardless. Industry / best practice tends to have a two to three year frequency for refresher training.


Read more -Legionella awareness training - who should attend?” 


FREE TOOL: Training Needs Review Tool for your organisation.

The objective of the Training Needs Review Tool is to provide your Water Safety Management Group within an informed status of water safety training.

This training review tool simply allows you to keep track of your team’s training records and easily helps you to identify when training has expired and requires refreshing.

Take to Water Safety Management Group meetings for regular review.

This Free Tool includes:

  • Identify who is involved with Water Safety in your organisation and record their names against each role within the table.
  • Any training more than 3 years old will automatically be highlighted in red easily indicating that training is required.

Fill out the form on the right to receive your free tool.

WHC Training needs review tool square -2 

Download your free tool


Legionella Training Courses for Infection Prevention and Control

Earlier in this article I detailed a possible list of people who need training, included in that list were Infection Prevention and Control Managers / Nurses. Taking these as our first example of a cohort who needs to receive training in legionella and more explicitly water safety training. Thinking of the environment where they work, healthcare and hospitals, the nature of these locations being treatment of those patients who are not well and most likely very susceptible to infection from legionella [including other waterborne pathogens, i.e. Pseudomonas aeruginosa]. The need to provide adequate training on the risk associated with water and transmission is paramount to ensure risk control measures remain in place.

HTM04-01 Part B para 5.14 details:

“The WSG should also ensure that infection prevention and control (IPC) teams have received adequate training and that there is compliance with national evidence-based guidelines for preventing healthcare-associated infections.”

A generic awareness course may prove useful but may not include the most appropriate information for Infection Prevention and Control Managers / Nurses! Remember training needs to be appropriate and sufficient for their role.


Read more -“Water Safety & Legionella training for Infection Prevention and Control” 

Conversely in legionella training, for a completely different cohort, are Hotel Workers. The clue here being ‘hotel’ and the fact that water safety training is applicable; although training on ‘other waterborne pathogens including Pseudomonas aeruginosa is not so'. The spectrum of ‘hotel workers’ will need to be detailed in a training needs analysis identifying those ‘workers’ who are involved in water management within the hotel, examples could include:

  • Hotel Manager;
  • Deputy Managers;
  • Head of Maintenance;
  • Plumbers;
  • Cleaners / Domestics.

With any organisation, individual’s roles and responsibilities need to have been defined, as such a Hotel Manager will require different training compared to a Head of Maintenance or the Cleaners / Domestics.

The risks within hotels are certainly interesting as hotels do not operate at 100% occupancy, as such, many rooms can be empty for periods of time. Daily cleaning of occupied rooms and use by hotel guests help with the turnover (flushing through) of water. Cleaning of unoccupied rooms and flushing of outlets is a consideration, more so during the pandemic with the leisure industry having been closed, and hotels have not been in use. This is highlighting the issue of stagnant water in hotels and the need to manage and reduce the risk of legionella proliferation, the action of routine flushing and / or dosing systems with biocides during lockdown will help reduce the risk further. But where is the training to reflect such drastic change in the use of the hotel and water systems? Thinking about reoccupation, the last thing to do is open to guests and allow them into rooms where the water systems have not been adequately managed during lockdown and potentially exposing them to legionella.

Read more - The importance of Legionella training for hotel workers” 



This issue of the right training was touched on in the previous section: ‘the Hotel Manager will require different training compared to a Head of Maintenance or the Cleaners / Domestics’. With this in mind the training needs to be applicable to an individual’s job role, a responsible person needs to look at appropriate management training, maintenance staff need to look at appropriate operational training. It would not be appropriate for plumbers to attend a management course aimed at the responsible person, for sure the plumber will learn a lot, but the training would not have been ‘suitable and sufficient’ for their role and responsibilities.

The established WSG reviewing a training needs analysis will need to have clearly understood each person’s role and thereby select an appropriate training course for their role and have this documented.




Here at the Water Hygiene Centre we have developed a host of training courses to cover various roles and responsibilities. To aid the WSG with the selection of what maybe the most appropriate course, we have prepared a which course is right for me matrix. The next step being documenting training, we’ve created a template training needs analysis which may help start the WSG with defining their own.

Traditionally our training courses have been completed face to face in a classroom environment. However, with the pandemic we have evolved and our training courses are now available for delivery through Microsoft Teams, as well as our face to face sessions. These are small classes of eight to ten delegates, and all training material is sent to candidates ahead of scheduled course dates.

To further compliment our training offering, e-learning is available! At present we have the following training courses available online:

The Water Hygiene Centre also has its own YouTube channel where you will find a selection of helpful, instruction videos on various practical tasks such as taking a temperature or flushing a little used outlet.

As an employer reading this you would be required to provide adequate information, instruction, and training to your employees. Identification of those involved with legionella awareness / water safety precautions throughout the organisation needs to be documented, with identification of any previous training completed and outlining new / refresher training required. The HSE have documented that outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease have been attributed to poor staff training. Take this opportunity to review where you and your organisation are with legionella training.

I wanted an overall awareness of water safety and the key risks and responsibilities associated with my role as a manager. I wanted an understanding of what is best practice and how you achieve that. After attending the Water Hygiene Centre’s Water Safety: Management Training all my boxes were ticked and this will allow me to understand  the best way of keeping patients and staff safe when using the facilities. Really enjoyable and many thanks. It’s a 10 from me.

Andrew Donegan, Isle of Wight NHS Trust

Unfortunately due to COVID-19 restrictions it was not possible to carry out the training 'face to face' but the training was excellently presented through Microsoft Teams.  The presenter was able to answer all questions from his experience and knowledge.

Stuart Nicol, Isle of Wight NHS Trust

I attended the Water Hygiene Centre’s Responsible Person course to gain a better understanding of legionella, the control measures to prevent infection, and the legislation around it. My objectives were achieved as legionella management is a major part of my job. I am also required to give tool-box talks to staff on the subject and this has helped me enormously.

Andrew Wilson, South Ayrshire Council

Due to moving into an Estates Officer role the Water Hygiene Centre’s management course has provided me with the knowledge I need to fulfil the role of responsible person.

Chris Jones, Serco

Being the Responsible Person for all aspects of Legionella Control across our estate portfolio, it is important that I'm up to date in terms of the law, the science and the latest developments in the industry. From my long term knowledge, experience and the processes currently being applied for Legionella Control Management, the Water Hygiene Centre’s training underpins and justifies the methodology used and improves upon the thought practices for the best practice common outcomes we all wish to deliver in achieving safe water systems and the people they serve.  Excellent performance by the presenter who was always ready to allow questions with decisive answers

John Sweeney, Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council

After attending the Water Hygiene Centre’s Responsible Person training, I now have improved my knowledge substantially which will enable me to be a more effective RP

Lee Fox, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

I was required to complete an Authorised Persons course by my employer and I was pleased to achieve my objectives by gaining a greater understanding of the laws and applicable regulations regarding water safety and the science behind why we carry out our PPM's on water systems. After attending the Water Hygiene Centre’s course I feel my objectives were achieved and I now have a greater understanding of the responsibilities towards water safety in my role

Lloyd Humby, University Hospitals Dorset

“I needed to understand the written scheme better so it can be used effectively with my compliance team. I believe that I have learnt a lot from attending the Water Hygiene Centre’s Responsible Person course and hope to put this into practice with the help of their consultants.”

Richard Burgess, Swindon Borough Council

“As Compliance Manager within our maintenance team, I needed to ensure our contractors are working to meet current regulations and I attended the Water Hygiene Centre’s Responsible Person course to provide me with the confidence of knowledge required to fulfil my role.  My objectives were received and this has enabled me to take this knowledge back to the office and work on processes and procedures to enhance our maintenance being completed and allow us to ensure we are meeting current regulations surrounding water safety”

Ruthe Milon, Government of Jersey

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