Legionella and HSE Guidance – Why ignorance is not always bliss…

The HSE recently published its guidance document on Legionella risk assessment and control and more specifically the required response from landlords and managing agents (known affectionally as ‘ the duty holder ‘).

Wonder if that title comes with an Oscar styled trophy?  Love a bit of bling….. 🙂

Anyway; there are many, many, many discussions ongoing on various forums though most notable on LinkedIn Landlord groups. There appears to be an equal amount of confusion as to the roles and responsibilities and whether there is any real need to do anything by anyone…?

My understanding of the HSE ACoP is that if the landlord and or letting agent feels competent or has access to competent help to carry out the required assessment to ascertain the risk of legionella either existing or potentially existing at the property then that is absolutely fine…….. They can go right ahead without the need for a risk assessment service.

If, however, they do not feel able to carry that out then they should instruct a ‘competent person’ to do that on their behalf. Part of being ‘competent’ is knowing what you are doing; understanding the risk assessment process and providing a report (not a certificate!) based on that evaluation of risk with appropriate control measures highlighted and managed in order to safeguard both the life of the tenant and that of any visitors to that particular property.

Yes…. the risk in the domestic setting is relatively low however, as has been shown in New York in the past few weeks, legionella does kill (12 people now dead) and people can be affected on a large scale (121 cases reported of illness from the outbreak).

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You can only know if a risk is a risk by evaluating all the factors that can contribute towards the likelihood that legionella exists at the property and then, and only then, can you determine how it can be effectively managed and the risk mitigated.

Again; if you feel able to provide such an assessment and are able to then manage any issues found and continue to manage that risk (all assessments are considered live and therefore require monitoring throughout the life of the tenancy / report not to mention that they then have to be kept for 5 years!) then you do not need the services of another ‘competent ‘ or professional person.

But lets consider an equally important but hardly mentioned off shoot of such assessments; that we are finding a significant number of other related, serious health & safety issues.

These have included faulty thermostats including one that was set too high meaning the risk of scolding resulted in the tenant receiving minor burns. A water tank was found to have no air vent and had wiring touching the copper pipework which had the potential to create the very real possibility of electrifying the water supply. A property had been void for nearly a month; was in a terrible state of cleanliness and the tenants going in were considered as vulnerable to infection. We have found cold water storage tanks sited directly above immersion heaters which have meant that the water has been too warm and therefore have the potential to allow legionella to proliferate.

You could argue that legionella risk assessments are a choice, either not required or not worth the fee being asked or paid but had those assessments not been conducted the H&S issues would have remained unnoticed until the risk had materialised and even more worrying…. how many continue to remain hidden?

Food for thought….

 

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