During the COVID-19 pandemic many businesses have chose to close their doors, to safeguard their workforces and adhering to lockdown measures. Now that transmission of COVID-19 has started to be controlled, with the guidelines and regulations in place, many businesses are beginning to return to work and reopen their offices that may have been closed for several weeks.
Whilst everyone is thinking about COVID-19 associated risks there may be other risks that may have been overlooked. One of these is the increased risk of Legionnaire’s disease, an example of this being water system stagnation occurring whilst reduced or no occupancy of buildings.
It is important for employers, the self-employed and people in control of premises to manage the risk of legionella, whether you are reinstating a water system or beginning to reuse it after it has been dormant for a while.
Consideration should be given to the following if they have not been used for a while:
Some air conditioning units – must be assessed for risk before restarting;
Hot and cold-water systems – if used infrequently, flush them weekly. If you have not been able to do this, work with your competent person(s) to ensure the system is cleaned and disinfected before use;
Cooling towers and evaporative condensers – dependent on the length of time not in use and the control measures you have in place;
Commercial spa pools and hot tubs – must be drained and disinfected before use.
If your water system has been used regularly throughout the pandemic, you must continue to maintain the appropriate measures to prevent legionella growth.
Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) may be required if you need to clean your water systems. Your risk assessment must demonstrate the RPE used is suitable, adequate and gives the assigned protection factor of at least 20. If your usual type of RPE, such as the disposable FFP3 respirators, are unavailable you can source an alternative such as:
· A reusable half-mask or full-face respirator fitted with a P3 filter;
· A powered respirator and hood class TH2 or 3;
· A powered respirator and close-fitting full-face mask class TM3;
· An air-fed hood or full-face mask supplied with breathing quality air.