Is Your Organization Protecting Staff From Legionella Bacteria?

Posted on July 2, 2015

The importance of dealing with the threat of legionella bacteria has hit the headlines recently, as Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has received a fine of £50,000 following the death of a patient who was infected with the deadly water bug.

Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton received the fine after a joint investigation by Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and Sussex Police, which highlighted the hospital’s failure to protect patients from the legionella bacteria antigen. Tragically, a 78-year-old cancer patient, Joan Rayment, died on 9 November 2011 with the deadly infection shown to be in her urine. The subsequent inquest into her tragic death stating that the Legionnaires’ disease that she had at the time of her passing, which was probably contracted via a shower in our hospital, and could potentially have been a significant factor in expediting her death.

The trust had been monitoring the legionella and water temperatures and had discovered a total of 114 positive legionella tests (plus 651 records of when water temperatures were not at a satisfactory level) during October 2010 and November 2011 – but had failed to act upon the warnings.

What basic Legionella Risk Assessments need to be implemented by organizations to be fully in accordance with ACOPS L8 in 2015? The Risk Assessment involves a thorough inspection of the water outlets, pipe work, pipe work fixings and fittings, water outlets including Showers, Chillers if used, Heating Systems and storage cylinders, Thermostatic Mixing Valves (TMV’s) and a building’s water storage tanks.

Ultimately, the most common places for harboring dangerous bacteria include dead legs (which is a term for pipe work that leads to an outlet where water flows, but the outlet is rarely or never used) and any underused outlets – but ALL water systems need to be monitored and any potential issues resolved. The assessment also includes photographic evidence and advice on any actions required to maintain the water systems to ACOP L8 requirements. It should also include advice on actions that are needed and a schematic of the water systems so that the user knows where all the equipment is situated. Also advice on a water maintenance program and who is responsible with an organization

Following this tragic case, it is reassuring to know that the trust has made significant changes to their legionella management procedures and implementation, costing 1.7 million. The trust now has an extensive training program for the staff at their hospitals, regular water testing programs, and measures to deal with any issues promptly.

This awful case goes to show that the treat of legionella bacteria is not being taken seriously by organizations and businesses, worryingly even by health workers that should be aware of the severe dangers of contaminated water in a building! If you have any queries about ACOP L8 or require a consultation regarding the responsibilities of the ACOP and how it affects your organization, please contact Bob Murray bobmurray@preciseuk.co.uk

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