Health and safety in hotels is paramount. All hotels depend on their guests having an enjoyable stay with no problems to maintain their brand reputation and attract business. This is particularly important when it comes to legionella in hotels as an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease will not only cause reputational damage, but could also result in a lawsuit.
Hotel requirements for health and safety in the UK are the same as other businesses. The Health and Safety Executive says that whatever the size, scale or complexity of your hot and cold water systems, the aim is to prevent the “foreseeable risk of exposure to legionella”.
Why is legionella bacteria such a concern for hotels?
If you are the manager, duty holder, or facilities manager for a hotel or group of hotels, you have a legal responsibility to understand, manage and control the health risks from legionella in your hotel water system. If any of your guests or staff members accidentally inhale water droplets that contain legionella bacteria, there is a risk they could go on to develop the potentially deadly Legionnaires’ disease. Legionnaires’ disease affects the lungs and presents symptoms that can be mistaken for pneumonia or, more recently, Covid-19.
The groups of people vulnerable to Legionnaires’ disease include the over 45s – according to the World Health Organisation, 75–80% of reported cases of Legionnaires’ occur in the over 50s. However, the elderly are much more at risk and make up the majority of global fatalities. Other people who are more vulnerable to the legionella bacteria include those with chronic medical conditions, as well as smokers and heavy drinkers.
If your hotel also has a spa and leisure facilities, special care will need to be taken. Spa pools pose a particular danger as the water is kept at the optimum temperature for legionella bacteria and the air jets are more likely to produce the kind of aerosol droplets that are easy to inhale. Poorly maintained spa pools are also likely to have pools of water accumulating around the edges which provide the ideal environment for the bacteria to breed. We suggest using a legionella thermometer to manage and measure water temperature.
It is therefore vital that you take action to prevent legionella infecting the water system in your hotel and spa facilities.
How to prevent legionella infecting your hotel’s water system
The legionella bacteria thrives in warm, stagnant water that’s between 20oC and 45oC. It is therefore important to keep the water moving through your system, and to keep the temperature of the cold water below 20oC to keep the bacteria dormant, and the temperature of the hot water at 60oC or higher to kill it completely. If you are worried about the health and safety of your guests as a result of the water being too hot, install thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs) which offer a safe water temperature for people without compromising on temperature safety when it comes to protecting guests from legionella bacteria.
Legionella risk assessment
It is vital that you have regular legionella risk assessments where qualified assessors will undertake a complete survey of your hotel premises to make sure you are doing what you need to manage the risks from legionella bacteria, including water testing and analysis. In their comprehensive report, the assessors will make recommendations for remedial work or preventative measures where appropriate.