The control of water-based threats to health and safety in the workplace seems to be an area little discussed, compared to more commonly-discussed areas of risk such as carrying heavy loads, fire hazards and so on. However, under certain conditions, legionella risk assessment may be a prudent idea, if your business incorporates a large number of water-based amenities.
The Legionella bacteria is known to cause Legionnaire’s disease, specifically L. pneumophila. With a large number of species recorded (over 50) Legionella is a widespread hazard to safety. Although Legionella is not always fatal by itself, it can cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms such as a high fever, muscle pains and persistent coughing if it spreads to the lungs. It can be serious, however, if not treated promptly or if it develops in those with reduced immunity, such as the elderly or those with pre-existing health issues. Around 10-15% of those who contract the disease will die, even if otherwise healthy-potentially substantially more in the vulnerable.
In order to reduce the likelihood of Legionella outbreaks and any associate issues, there are a number of steps that you can take. Firstly, in order to assess the probability of an outbreak affecting your building, carrying out a legionella risk assessment in the first instance can give you a good idea of what you can do-this might involve ensuring that water-based fittings, pipes and amenities are correctly designed and maintained, for example. By ensuring your pipe design limits the maximum amount of stagnant water that can form within them as much as possible, the chances for the bacterium to grow will be substantially limited. Aside from this, correctly treating water supplies and ensuring that they are kept at temperatures unsuitable to legionella will help a great deal. The bacteria finds it difficult to grow quickly unless it multiplies within a warm or hot environment, so taking this into consideration will help in the long run.
If preventative measures fail, then infected individuals need to be treated swiftly with antibiotics to destroy the infection-if this is done promptly then the overall prognosis is good.