The main risk factors that contribute to staff and visitors in coffee shops and cafés being exposed to the legionella bacteria include public-facing water systems such as toilets and wash facilities. This matters because, if inhaled into the lungs, legionella could develop into the potentially fatal Legionnaires’ disease. If you run a coffee shop or a café, you must consider the main areas of risk in terms of legionella exposure, which include kitchen areas, staff areas and customer areas such as toilets.

Coffee machines

The water used to make drinks in commercial coffee machines and espresso machines is usually a temperature of at least 60oC, which means it’s likely the levels of legionella bacteria will be small. However, if scale is allowed to accumulate in the machine or the drip tray is not regularly cleaned, it could allow a build-up of the bacteria.

The washing up  

While most people pay attention to hygiene during food preparation, little is said about the risks associated with washing dishes. Ignoring these risks could inadvertently expose people to diseases such as Legionnaires’. Having a proper water management system can help prevent the spread of legionella bacteria. Take care to ensure that water is not allowed to pool around the sink or on the floor where, in a hot kitchen, it could provide all the conditions legionella needs in order to flourish. 

Food and food preparation

If your café offers plant-based and organic food, you need to be mindful about handling organic vegetables. A recent study by Spanish scientists discovered that around a third of organic vegetables had been contaminated by bacteria including legionella. This is because of the use of manure and sludge as a natural fertiliser – cross contamination occurs when it comes into contact with the vegetables. This means that it’s more important than ever to wash vegetables thoroughly in cold water that’s below 20oC to control the risks from legionella in cafés.

Legionella risk assessment for coffee shops and cafés

Legionnaires’ disease is preventable. It is often the poor management of legionella that leads to the increased risk of an outbreak. So to keep customers and staff safe from legionella bacteria, all businesses operating in the hospitality sector must take steps to manage the risks of exposure to legionella.

The best place to start is with a legionella risk assessment. If you are an employer or the duty holder in control of the premises, it is your responsibility to manage risks that may arise from work activities. Risk assessments can be done by yourself (as the employer or duty holder) or by a specialist company such as uRisk. The risk assessment is designed to assess the likely sources of risk, as well as make recommendations about risk control and monitoring.

Regular water testing is an essential part of your risk management – we recommend testing is done every two years, whenever you think there may be a problem, or after work is carried out on your water system. 

Online training 

For a detailed explanation of your duties and responsibilities for legionella risk management, sign up for our accredited online training course for just £35+VAT. The course is aimed at anyone responsible for health and safety in buildings with cold water systems. 

How we can help small coffee shops and cafés

We understand that for small businesses, outsourcing legionella risk management will not be a financially viable option. That is why we offer a cheaper option in the form of a Legionella Testing Kit. Take your own water samples and send them off for lab testing and detailed analysis to ensure that the water in your coffee shop or café is safe. 

If you would like us to help you with any other aspect of your legionella risk assessment and management, contact us to find out more.