Is Your Industry At Risk Of Legionella Outbreak?
Legionella, a naturally occurring bacterium found in freshwater environments such as streams and lakes, can become a potentially life-threatening health hazard when it grows unchecked in human-made water systems. These include hot water boilers and central heating systems, cooling systems, and the wash bays and water infrastructure used by commercial vehicle operators – including the water recycling systems and wash enclosures we supply here at Britannia Wash Systems.
For facility managers across the UK, therefore, conveying the risk of Legionella to staff, customers, and the general public is not just a regulatory issue, but is a critical aspect of maintaining public health and safety. But are you fully informed about the extent of the Legionella risk within your industry? Let’s look at what you need to know in more detail.
Understanding Legionella Risk Factors
Legionella microorganisms thrive in warm and stagnant water and can quickly multiply under the right conditions. Once aerosolised and inhaled, e.g. through a jet wash or shower spray, these bacteria can take root in the lungs and lead to Legionnaires Disease, which is a serious and occasionally fatal type of bacterial pneumonia.
Certain sectors face a higher Legionella risk due to specific environmental factors and practices.
Hospitals And Healthcare Facilities
Healthcare facilities, and hospitals in particular, are high risk environments for Legionella outbreaks, because the complex water systems used in these settings, combined with the presence of vulnerable patients with weakened immune systems, create a febrile environment in which Legionella can thrive and pose a significant health threat.
Additionally, many routine medical procedures and equipment, including respiratory machines and showers, generate aerosols that can spread the bacteria over large areas – e.g. from infected persons or contaminated water. Regular testing and comprehensive water monitoring strategies, including automated temperature controls and disinfection, are essential strategies to prevent or contain outbreaks in hospitals.
Industrial And Manufacturing
Industrial and manufacturing facilities frequently use cooling towers and complex water management processes, providing promising breeding grounds for Legionella. These systems, if not maintained and regularly sanitised, can allow the bacteria to multiply rapidly and then disperse widely through aerosol droplets. To mitigate this danger, regular inspections, robust cleaning routines, and disinfection should form a core part of any industrial facilities water management strategy. Training staff on Legionella risks and prevention practices also plays a crucial role in minimising operational risk.
Commercial landlords and property owners, especially of buildings that stand vacant for long periods of time, should be aware of the increased risk of Legionella to occupants. Stagnant water left in tanks, pipes, or air conditioning systems can become a perfect hotbed for bacterial growth. Regularly flushing water systems in vacant properties, along with periodic microbiological water quality testing, can help prevent Legionella proliferation – and it’s also essential to ensure that water heaters are set to the correct temperature to inhibit bacterial multiplication.
Vehicles with air-conditioning or on-board toilets, such as coaches, buses, and trains, or those exposed to increased heat from hot weather and direct sunlight, often have poorly insulated water systems that create extremely favourable conditions for Legionella growth. This is particularly relevant for operators of high occupancy consumer vehicles and public transport businesses. Regularly cleaning and disinfecting these vehicles, coupled with staff education on the Legionella risk, can help keep passengers and employees safe.
Download Our Free Guide To Controlling And Mitigating Legionella Risks
For more information about the risk of Legionella in your sector, the risk factors you should be aware of, and how to effectively manage the Legionella risk in commercial properties, please download our free guide today or click here to get in touch.
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