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Landlords have a duty to keep their properties safe and free from hazardous elements. Apart from making sure that their rental units are structurally sound, property owners also have the responsibility of making sure that the health and safety of their tenants is not compromised.

This is why it is essential for landlords to conduct a risk assessment for Legionella.

Also known as a Legionella hazard analysis, the Legionella risk assessment entails a thorough and systematic evaluation of a property’s water system against potential risks, like Legionella.

Legionella bacteria cause Legionnaires’ disease and are commonly found in warm freshwater. A small population of the bacteria can be found in the residential water supply, even after water from freshwater sources has been sanitised and processed. At low levels, the bacteria pose minimal risks. However, when the right conditions are met, the bacterial population can multiply. When a person with a weakened immune system inhales contaminated water droplets, he or she can succumb to Legionnaires’ disease or even die.

A Legionella risk assessment does not eliminate the bacteria from the water supply, however, through proper management and enforcement of the correct control measures, the risk of the Legionella bacteria wreaking havoc on public health is minimised.

Although the risk of Legionella contamination in residential properties is relatively low, it is prudent for property owners to conduct a Legionella risk assessment to identify potential areas of concern.


Risk assessment tips

One of the first things that needs to be considered is the last time the property’s water system was used. Ideally, hot and cold water systems should be used at least once a week. If the property has been vacant for an extended period of time, the water system should either be drained or flushed.

Property owners should also carefully evaluate the water tanks on their properties as these are prone to Legionella exposure.

Water temperature is another key point that should be scrutinised during the assessment. Legionella bacteria thrive in warm water and if hot water is to be stored in a tank, the temperature should be 60 degrees centigrade. On the other hand, the addition of instant water heaters can significantly lower risk for Legionella.

Finally, property owners should also make sure that showerheads are cleaned and disinfected regularly since scale is an ideal food source for legionella bacteria.

Controlling Legionella

Before the new occupants of a rental unit move in, the property owner should flush the water system.

In addition, a tight lid over cold water tanks is a simple yet effective measure which can help prevent the entry of dirt and debris.

If there are redundant pieces of pipework, it is highly advisable to remove these.

Tenants can also contribute greatly to the prevention of a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak. For one, they can alert their landlords about problems with the hot water system or if debris can be found in the water.

If there are water outlets that are not used on a regular basis, the tenants can turn these on for a few minutes weekly. Occupants of a rental property should also ensure that the showerheads are cleaned and disinfected.

Finally, once the water temperature has been set to the recommended levels, tenants should not tamper with these settings.

With the full effort of the landlord in keeping the water system clean, as well as keeping the tenants well informed of the risks and encouraging them to do preventive measures, your building can be free from Legionella bacteria.