‘Take action to prevent Legionnaires’ disease’

The Legionella pneumophila bacteria
The Legionella pneumophila bacteria

The Association of Heating and Plumbing Contractors (APHC) is reminding businesses and landlords to ensure they are meeting regulations to prevent an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease following a report from Public Health England on the death of three men from the disease.

The men contracted Legionnaires’ from a badly maintained hot tub on display at a Garden Centre in 2012, which had not been filtered or cleaned for weeks. Stagnant water in the tub led to the growth of the bacteria and when switched on for display, the legionella particles became airborne and spread around the garden centre. Twenty-one other people were also found to have caught the bug from the same outbreak.

Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal lung infection caused by the bacteria legionella, which can be found in both freshwater areas and artificial water supplies. Although large buildings such as hotels, hospitals and public buildings which have large water systems are more vulnerable to contamination, allowing the bacteria to spread quickly, all hot and cold water systems within any property open to the public or with a commercial use must be assessed for risk of legionella. This includes residential properties that are let by private or social landlords, care homes, schools, offices, sports facilities and changing rooms. As highlighted by the hot tub case, any water supply not properly maintained, filtered or cleaned can prove fatal – even without direct contact.

The latest monthly figures released by Public Health England show that there were 31 reported cases of the disease in February 2015 across England and Wales, although five of these may result from travel abroad.

APHC offers dedicated membership for professionals in this field. The Plumbing and Heating Contractors’ Alliance Legionella Risk Assessment and Disinfection Scheme allows property owners to meet their obligations by sourcing and working with plumbing professionals who satisfy the scheme’s criteria. Membership demonstrates to property owners that they are dealing with a professional and competent plumber, and plumbers receive recognition for their knowledge and understanding of the risks associated with legionella, so that they can implement a risk assessment and carry our remedial action where necessary.

John Thompson, chief executive of APHC, said: “This case has showed how deadly Legionnaires’ can be, and how quickly the disease spreads to people not in direct contact with the infected water. We offer a dedicated scheme to give business owners reassurance that they are employing a competent professional with a detailed knowledge of this specialist area. Organisations and landlords simply cannot take the risk of an outbreak.”

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