A veterinary surgery may only treat animals, but it is still important to consider legionella and the risks it poses to their human visitors. Like any business, a veterinary surgery has a responsibility to protect its staff and visitors to ensure their health and safety.
This means you must appoint a responsible person – or take the task on yourself – to assess and monitor possible risks from legionella. Under health and safety regulations if “you are an employer, or someone in control of premises, including landlords, you must understand the health risks associated with legionella”. This means the responsible person needs to identify possible sources of risk and manage them in order to prevent an outbreak. They must also keep accurate records of their actions.
If you are uncertain about your duties or have been recently appointed as a duty holder or the person responsible for health and safety, our accredited Legionella Awareness Online Training Course will give you all the necessary information.
Why Is Legionella a Problem?
Legionella is a waterborne bacterium that, if inhaled in small droplets of water, can develop into the potentially fatal Legionnaires’ disease. As pet owners come in all shapes and sizes, there is a high likelihood that some visitors to your surgery could be in the at-risk categories, for example, people over the age of 45, people with chronic health conditions, or smokers, and heavy drinkers.
Are Pets at Risk from Legionella?
For your clients from the animal world, there is virtually no risk from legionella. There is only one recorded incident of any animal being diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease – a young calf in northern Italy at the end of the 20th century. The authors of a paper published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology concluded that “the widespread distribution of legionellae is in contrast to a somewhat surprising lack of clinical reports of L. pneumophila infection in animals, which has prompted several investigators to assess the susceptibilities of different animal species to Legionella infection. Investigations have been carried out with both domestic animals (cattle, horses, swine, sheep, goats, dogs, and rabbits) and wild animals (antelopes, water buffaloes, camels, and pigeons) in order to detect a serological evidence of infection, yet so far the results have not been conclusive.”
It is therefore only necessary to protect the human visitors to your surgery from the risks of legionella. In addition to managing risks, we recommend testing the water from all your outlets every two years.
Legionella Water Testing
Although it is not a legal requirement, water testing is a fundamental element of mitigating the risks from legionella. This is a task we recommend all businesses undertake at least every two years. However, if you have concerns that the bacteria might be present in your veterinary surgery, test the water immediately. For larger surgeries with multiple water outlets, a specialist organisation will be happy to undertake Water Testing, Analysis & Sampling. Alternatively, if you run a small surgery, you can buy a DIY Water Testing Kit that will enable you to take your own samples and send them to the laboratory for analysis.