Revised British standard on Legionella risk assessment

Document addresses water quality and risk assessment to curb outbreaks of Legionnaire's disease

Legionella bacteria

British standards agency, BSI, has released British standard BS 8580-1:2019 Water quality, risk assessments for Legionella control – Code of practice; a significant revision to the 2010 standard and providing further guidelines for assessing water quality and the risk of Legionnaires disease.

This standard gives recommendations and guidance on the assessment of the risk of Legionellosis presented by artificial water systems.

Legionellosis is a collective term for diseases caused by bacteria of the genus Legionella, an opportunist pathogen which normally inhabits warm, moist or aquatic environments. The most-serious and potentially-fatal form is Legionnaires’ disease.

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, employers, or those people in control of premises, became responsible for understanding the associated health risks and for carrying out appropriate risk assessments, such as those for Legionella.

Therefore, in 2010, BSI published the first edition of this British standard, BS 8580:2010, offering the necessary recommendations and guidance.

By 2014, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had restructured and made changes to its Approved Code of Practice and guidance for controlling Legionella bacteria in water systems, known as ACoP L8. It then separated ACoP L8 from its technical guidance which was further developed by industry groups into three distinct parts:

  • HSG 274 Part 1 is concerned with cooling towers
  • HSG 274 Part 2 is concerned with hot and cold water services
  • HSG 274 Part 3 is concerned with ‘other’ systems

Various factors prompted this revision of the original British Standard published in 2010, namely: the separation of the ACoP L8 and HSG documentation, the shift from a single description of the risk assessment process and outputs to the recommendations for the frequency of inspection in each of the individual industry group (HSG 274 Parts 1, 2 and 3).

It also takes new information, published in 2017 as HSG 282 – control of Legionella and other infectious agents in spa pools, into consideration.

David Fatscher, head of sustainability at BSI, said: “We shouldn’t underestimate the risk Legionnaires’ disease poses to society today. Therefore, having updated guidance and recommendations for its prevention is as important as ever.

“This revised standard aims to enable anyone with responsibility for the health and safety of others in public premises, across the spectrum from the workplace to hospitals, to undertake the necessary risk assessments and adopt adequate prevention measures.”

Only last year, the Royal United Hospital in Bath was fined £300,000 for health and safety breaches after a patient died from Legionnaire’s disease while being treated for cancer.

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