BOHS calls for suitable legionella control risks post lockdown

The British Occupational Hygiene Society, a scientific charity and the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection is warning that businesses, and in particular the hospitality sector, need to be extra vigilant after worrying data about the high incidence of legionella in hotels.

Last year, the Society issued a Return to Work Guidance, which highlighted this, as well as several other risks that could shut down businesses just as they are trying to open up.

BOHS draws attention to a recent study, carried out by the UKAS accredited laboratory at Feedwater Ltd (Feedwater Ltd. Press Release, 8 June 2021), an LCA registered water treatment service provider.

Study data found:

– a marked increase in the numbers of samples testing positive for Legionella after lockdown, even in systems where Legionella colonisation was not easily detectable before March 2020.

– up to two-thirds of samples taken from the selected systems were positive for Legionella in post-lockdown sampling.

– some sites with historic positive results show significant increases in positive results following lockdown.

– even in premises considered under control prior to the pandemic, Legionella become much more commonly detected bacteria in samples taken post-lockdown.

This is a good reminder of the importance of a robust risk assessment, undertaken by a competent person, for the recommissioning or substantial change in use of a water system. The output of this assessment will define a programme of work to mitigate any risks and steps to validate effectiveness. A robust written control scheme should identify what measures of control to use based on the adequacy of those controls against the water system.

BOHS CEO Kevin Bampton commented on the report, saying

It is perfectly understandable that businesses are keen to get on with life as usual. However, the extended lockdown is unprecedented and is likely to give rise to more health risks for workers that can really have a profound and negative effect on individuals and on companies. We urge businesses to work through the impact of having premises shut. Our guidance is among several useful sources of information to get us back to work healthily and without nasty surprises.

You can download BOHS Return to Work Guidance here.