Many offices will close for a while over the Christmas period, probably for no more than two weeks. This will result in the water system lying unused, which has the potential to provide the right conditions for the legionella bacteria to grow and thrive. This would be dependent on a number of conditions, so to understand if you need to test your water when re-opening the offices after the Christmas break, you need to understand the conditions in which the bacteria will thrive.
What are the Optimum Conditions for Legionella?
The legionella bacteria thrive in stagnant water that’s between 20oC and 45°C. The bacteria live on contaminants such as sludge, scale, rust and organic matter. So if water at the optimum temperature is left undisturbed for a while, there is a high likelihood that the water will become contaminated.
In the winter months in the UK, the likelihood of the outside temperature being more than 20oC is, of course, extremely low. So the main risk would be from your premises being partially used, with the need for the heating to be on but without the regular flow of water, so some parts of your water system will lie dormant.
However, there is a straightforward way of reducing the risk from the legionella bacteria if your premises are empty or only partially used over the Christmas period. And that is to ask someone to go into the premises and run all the taps and flush all the toilets at least once a week. This will keep the water flowing and reduce the likelihood of bacteria collecting.
What To Do if You Are Worried About the Risk of Legionella
If you have reason to be worried about the risk of the legionella bacteria collecting in your water system, the best thing to do would be to book a water test to make certain your system is clean.
If you are unsure, have just moved premises or have just been appointed as the responsible person, book a legionella risk assessment. This detailed assessment will look at all aspects of water safety and make recommendations for ways of reducing the risks from the legionella bacteria.
What are the Rules About Legionella Testing?
Your company is not legally required to undertake legionella testing, but under Health & Safety regulations, you must understand the associated health risks. Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH), you are required to “provide a framework of actions designed to assess, prevent or control the risk from bacteria like Legionella and take suitable precautions”. Click here for the HSE’s Approved Code of Practice.
A legionella risk assessment and regular water testing are, therefore, a necessary part of your company’s health and safety policies. For office premises, we recommend water testing is carried out every two years unless you have a reason to believe there may be a problem, in which case, contact us now to talk to an expert and book an appointment.
If you are a duty holder or have just been appointed as the responsible person and would like to find out more about your responsibilities and duties, our Legionella Awareness Online Training Course will tell you everything you need to know for only £35 + VAT.