LEGIONNAIRES OUTBREAK MAY HAVE BEEN AVOIDABLE CLAIMS TRADE ASSOCIATION
Another regrettable death from Legionnaires’ disease indicates that poor maintenance regimes or complacency are still too prevalent in Britain’s public buildings and other large complexes. B&ES (the Building & Engineering Services Association) says more needs to be done to combat this ever-present threat.
6 June 2012 – The tragic death of a man in his 50s from Legionnaires’ disease whilst being treated at Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh has signalled an outbreak of this potentially lethal illness, with the number of confirmed and suspected cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Edinburgh continuing to rise. Health authorities in Scotland believe that this outbreak was probably caused by a cooling tower in the south west of the city.
Deaths from Legionnaires’ are not uncommon, and many people remember the tragic outbreak in 2002 in the town of Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, resulting in the deaths of seven members of the public with a further 180 people taken ill.
Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia which can affect anybody but primarily affects those who are more susceptible because of their age, those suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease and people whose immune system is impaired. Infection is caused by breathing in small droplets of water contaminated by the bacteria.
Water temperature between 20°C and 50°C is the range in which legionella bacteria will proliferate most rapidly, with the optimum temperature believed to be 37°C. Legionella bacteria are however killed within a few minutes at water temperatures above 60°C.
Blane Judd, Chief Executive of B&ES (the Buildings & Engineering Services Association), says that a regular programme of inspection and maintenance of air conditioning, water holding and water supply systems is essential if future deaths from Legionnaires’ are to be avoided. Mr Judd comments, “On average there are approximately 300 reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease each year in the UK and when clusters of cases occur they can typically be traced back to poorly maintained cooling tower systems, air conditioning plant or hot and cold water systems in offices, factories, hotels, hospitals and other larger establishments.
“Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia but it is possible to significantly reduce the risk of creating the conditions in which the legionella bacteria thrive by taking important measures such as a programme of regular inspection and maintenance of susceptible plant and equipment, including regular cleaning and disinfection.
“Building owners and occupiers should be aware of, and comply with, their legal obligations, and these are set out in a single document, published by the Health and Safety Commission (HSC), called ‘Legionnaires’ disease: the control of legionella bacteria in water systems’. This is a HSC Approved Code of Practice (ACoP), commonly referred to as L8.
“Certainly there is a pressing need for all those involved in building maintenance and management to understand where the health risks lie. However, in an era of reduced staff and budgets but higher workloads there is more room for human error.
“Members of our Association have the experience and expertise to help building owners and duty holders, with many now offering ‘continuous dosing’ systems, designed to maintain water systems in a permanent state of excellent hygiene. These systems release controlled levels of chemical treatment into the water system at a set time, or in response to changing conditions, so removing some of the potential for human error or omission. As well as minimising health threats, this approach will improve on operating efficiency and save energy as water does not need to be kept at high temperature”.
For more information about B&ES and the services provided by its members visit http://www.b-es.org.
Issued on behalf of the Building & Engineering Services Association (B&ES) by Next Step Marketing Ltd
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Note to Editors
Since its formation in 1904, B&ES, the Building & Engineering Services Association (formerly the HVCA) has represented the interests of companies engaged in a wide range of building and engineering services disciplines.
B&ES helps its members to build successful businesses by being the leading trade association for integrated building and engineering services and renewable technologies. It is a unifying force that promotes and monitors excellence; provides quality advice, guidance, training and support; generates market-leading thinking; and shapes the commercial environment through active representation.
B&ES members are subject to regular, third-party inspection and assessment of their technical competence and commercial capability, carried out by an independent certification body at least every three years.
B&ES publishes a Standard Maintenance Specification SFG20 which draws on the advice given in the HSE Approved Code of Practice L8 (ACoP). This provides detailed guidance on avoiding the main threats posed by legionella bacteria. Accurate record keeping, corrective action and complete audit trails are key parts of the guidance. There is also a new British Standard BS8580, which focuses particularly on the issues surrounding rainwater harvesting systems.