Legionella Risk Assessments – WHY BOTHER?

Ok; so lets tackle the all important question: as a landlord do you have to carry out a legionella risk assessment on your property?

Answer: Yes

If you are a landlord and rent out your property (or even a room within your own home) then you have legal responsibilities to ensure the Health and Safety of your tenant(s) by keeping the property safe and free from health hazards.

So do I need to get someone in to do this?

In the domestic setting (houses, flats, apartment blocks, individual rooms, B&B’s etc..) and as highlighted in the HSE ACoP; if the landlord and or letting agent feels competent or has access to competent help to carry out an 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 and carry out their own assessment without the need for a specialised service.

So no real need to bother right?

As a landlord you cannot just release yourself from your responsibilities to your tenant(s) as the requirement to risk assess for legionella is underpinned by Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 and as highlighted in L8 Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) (fourth edition).

Part of being competent (as defined and required by HSE guidance) is understanding the risk assessment process and based on that evaluation of risk carrying out any appropriate control measures including identifying responsible persons so those risks can be managed and the safety of tenants and any visitors is maintained.

It is right to note that the HSE guidance doesn’t actually require a landlord to provide a physical report but they must maintain records which then highlights the very real question; how do you evidence that you’ve carried out an assessment especially to a competent standard if a tenant falls ill and or makes a claim against you?

But its only a flat; surely its not worth all that effort?

It has to be said that the risk of legionella in the domestic setting is relatively low however, as has been shown in New York recently, legionella does kill (12 people unfortunately died) and people can be affected on a large scale (121 cases reported of illness from the outbreak).

So when is a risk not a risk?

You can only know if a risk actually exists by evaluating all the factors that can contribute towards the likelihood v impact that legionella exists at the property and how it can be effectively managed and the risk(s) then mitigated.

Again; if you feel able to complete such an assessment and are able to then manage any issues found and continue to manage the risks (all assessments are considered live and therefore require ongoing monitoring and review) then you do not need the services of a risk assessment provider.

However there is another factor you may wish to consider in all this; out of a sample of 50 reports we completed in the course of a week, a significant number have been found with 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 actually receiving minor burns
  • a water tank was found to have bare wiring touching the copper pipework which had the potential to electrify the water supply
  • a property that had been void for nearly a month was in a terrible state of cleanliness and found to be infested. The tenants going in were considered as vulnerable to infection due to age and ill health
  • a damaged shower head where sharp and protruding edges could have caused injury

So if legionella risk assessments are not being completed H&S issues will continue to remain hidden until the risk materialises….

Food for thought….

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