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Are you concerned about Legionella infecting your water systems? Do you have any plans to keep your care home safe from this health risk? In this article, you’ll find out how to protect your care home from Legionella.

Health Risks Care Home Residents Faced

Many of UK’s elderly care home residents suffer from various health and medical ailments. Their weaker immune systems make them vulnerable to various lung-related diseases. These include Legionnaires’ Disease and Pontiac Disease.

As homeowner or administrator, it’s your responsibility to minimise such things from happening. One of the things you need to look out for is the bacterium called Legionella. This is the strain that’s responsible for the Legionnaires and Pontiac Disease. These two respiratory diseases are not common but they are potentially fatal to the elderly. In addition, the law requires you to make sure that the water system is safe.

Legal Requirements

HSE is responsible for regulations related to Legionella testing. In particular, HSG274 Part 2 lists all the responsibilities of landlords and business owners. While you don’t have to conduct Legionella tests, you’re required to conduct a risk assessment. The best way to do that is to monitor your water systems for bacteria. This includes the use of a water testing kit.

Regulations require that you test for Legionella when:

  • A water system is treated with biocides, stored or distributed at lower temperatures. 
  • Anti-Legionella precautions such as temperature settings are not consistent.
  • An increase in care home population put the current occupants at a higher risk.
  • Your water system is suspected or identified as a source of Legionella 
  • For hot or cold water systems you’ll need to take samples when:
  • You risk assessment requires it
  • The hot water is stored below 60C or exceeds 20C for cold water systems
  • The water system is hardly used or stagnant
  • Has Excess storage content 
  • Contains debris
  • Dead Legs

 

How to Conduct Water Tests

  • Check your drinking and potable water sources. These include taps, showers, and even water tanks. The best samples to test are the “pre-flush” or the “first draw” ones.
  • Label the sample bottle properly. Don’t hide any important details while you’re documenting the test. 
  • In case, you suspect that there are is Legionella, observe caution when taking samples:
  • Wear a mask to avoid breathing any contaminated aerosols or mists.
  • To get samples from the showerhead, you can use a sandwich bag. After getting the sample, snip off a corner to slide the water to the bottle.
  • Cap the sample bottles tightly. This will prevent any chances of leaks while on its way to the laboratory. 

 

How to take samples – cold water systems

  • Get the sample from the nearest point of entry or outlet. 
  • For each branch of the water system, get samples from the nearest and furthest outlet.

 

How to take samples – hot water systems

  • Get the sample from the calorifier hot water outlet and its base, but only if it’s safe to do so. A number of systems are using pressure tanks.
  • Take the water from the nearest and furthest outlet for single pipes. 
  • Get several samples from the nearest and furthest outlet on each loop of a circulating system.

 

The Frequency of Legionella Test – Hot Water

The frequency and number of samples you take will depend on the risk factor. Most Care Homes use temperature control to contain the Legionella risk. You need to take steps like:

  • Keeping the hot water tank’s consistent temperature at above 60C.
  • Making sure that the hot water temperature on the furthest part of your Care home is above the 50C. You should feel that heat level within one minute of opening the tap.

If you’ve done both of these precautions, HSE recommends checking every six months. If not, check it every week.

The Frequency of Legionella Test – Cold Water

Checking the cold water system for Legionella is easier. As long as the temperature is under 20C, it’s fine. Usually, this is not a problem since the temperature is cold most of the year. You only need to increase the frequency of checks during the summer months.

Clean and disinfect the water system when:

  • The plumbing has changed so much that it’s now necessary to disinfect the whole system 
  • You see significant levels of sediment within the tank
  • When you fail your microbiological results

If you don’t use the water storage for drinking, you don’t have to clean and disinfect it as often. Cleaning, draining and disinfecting a water storage tank is a time-consuming process. On the other hand, checking your water supply for Legionella will not require much effort and time from you.

If you need additional advice you can contact us here at AquaCert.

Author: Duncan Hollis