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• What is Legionella?
Legionella is a bacteria and when inhaled it turns into legionnaires disease a very severe and sometime fatal form of pneumonia. Pontiac disease is also caused by the same bacteria, however with milder symptoms, much like a flu. Elderly, vulnerable and smokers will have increased risks to contract this airborne disease.
• Where can it be found?
In natural waters, in small amounts. They cause problems in purpose built water systems; cooling towers, hot and cold water pipes, air conditioning units and spa’s. Basically, anywhere where water can stagnate, is an area that can develop the microorganisms that create potential to expose people to legionnaires disease.
• Legal responsibilities
The law is clear, as a landlord renting out a house (or even a room in your own dwelling) then you have certain legal responsibilities towards your tenants to ensure you keep them safe and free from hazards. The tenant also has some responsibilities to ensure their dwelling is safe. An example of this would be letting the landlord know that the cold water is running warm.
• Hazardous environments
Legionella bacteria thrives in warm environments, hot tubs, spa’s, air conditioning, water pipe systems, shower heads in properties. Most cases are contracted through large commercial properties, however, there is still a risk from domestic homes. Due to this it is advisable to carry out a test to eliminate the risk. To reduce the risk in properties, its quite simple keep the hot water hot and moving and the cold water cold a free running. The risk increases if the property is empty, even for a short time. Making sure that water is running through the property is a way to avoid water stagnation. If the property is going to be left empty for long periods of time, it is advisable to drain the whole system down.
• Legionella risk assessment
There is a legal requirement to make sure any domestic property is not at risk from legionella and is also a form of trying to control outbreaks. The test can be carried out by any competent person, who could be the Landlord. This is a legal requirement and enforced by the Health & Safety Executive.