The risk of legionella in education facilities and how to conduct appropriate water management

The front of a modern school building

Without implementing water management processes to maintain water safety, educational establishments such as schools, colleges, and universities run a significant risk of exposing staff and students to legionella bacteria.

Legionella bacteria is a form of waterborne bacteria that can lead to Legionnaires’ disease, a form of pneumonia that can have fatal consequences for those with compromised immune systems.

There are a set of standards that educational facilities must abide by according to regulatory legislation including The Education Act 1996 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides schools, colleges and universities with guidance and practical advice on managing legionella risk and how to ensure compliance with UK law in their ACoP L8 and HSG274 Part 2 publications. They detail how education facilities are expected to have both a clear water management process and a water safety plan to prevent the infection and spread of legionella bacteria in the most at-risk areas. 

Which areas are most at risk?

The most common places for legionella bacteria to develop in educational facilities are thermostatic mixing values (TMVs), infrequently used shower heads, wash basin tap outlets, cold and hot water generators, and water systems with temperatures between 21°C and 45°C.

To prevent the ingress of organic contamination, it’s imperative that this equipment is monitored as part of the facility’s routine water management process. 

Who’s responsible for managing the water management process?

It is legally required of the facility duty holder or designated responsible person (such as the head teacher) to make sure that educational facilities are adequately safeguarded against water hygiene risks. Water systems, students, and teachers must be protected from the potentially fatal consequences of the bacteria through frequent evaluations and routine testing.

Due to infrequent use at times like school holidays, education facilities can be at high risk of attracting legionella bacteria due to the change in water conditions during these periods. Even during these periods of little to no use, the building’s responsible person is still expected to locate and evaluate any sources that could endanger the health and well-being of building occupants.

Basic risk management, such as legionella risk assessments and regular inspection of water systems can provide an essential starting point in educational facilities meeting this guidance. 

Conducting a legionella risk assessment

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, education facilities are required by law to undertake a legionella risk assessment to ensure they comply with their HSG 274 guidelines

Building owners of educational facilities can determine whether certain locations are more prone to legionella growth than others by hiring an external company to conduct a thorough legionella risk assessment. A water treatment specialist will be able to test all hot and cold water systems, as well as appliances such as taps, showerheads, and other outlets that aren’t used very often to identify which areas are at greater risk of bacterial growth. 

You can learn more about legionella risk assessments and their benefits here

Young child washing their hands at school

What measures will I need to take after the risk assessment? 

A risk assessment will assist you in determining the required control measures needed to keep your educational facility safe. Both during the academic year and over the holiday periods, the building’s designated responsible person may follow a legionella flushing regime to protect the water systems. 

This process will be useful in locating the areas of infrequent use and identifying which appliances need to be flushed and cleaned regularly to ensure that they have been replenished with freshwater. 

This will include a weekly, or potentially more frequent, flushing schedule of all water outlets throughout the premises including showers, toilets, taps and outside hoses. It is also useful to gather water samples from your systems during holiday periods and send them to an external lab for testing before the start of a new term. The responsible person must also maintain a thorough record of all actions taken to demonstrate compliance with governing laws.  

How Irrigonics can help…

Our team of water management experts provide assistance to individuals responsible for preventing the spread of legionella bacteria in educational institutions. We provide professional risk assessments for water safety, water testing, compliance audits, and useful guidance for our clients.

Through our risk assessment, we will provide you with instructions on how to fully flush, clean, and disinfect systems in accordance with British Standards including BS EN 806, BS 8558 and BS PD 855468

For professional water management solutions, get in touch with our team today

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