What is Legionella?
Legionella which causes Legionnaires Disease is a common bacterium which may be found in many environmental water sources and is often associated with hot and cold water distribution systems, air conditioning systems, condensers, humidifiers, water taps, showerheads, water fountains, water features, whirlpool baths, Jacuzzis, spas, respiratory therapy equipment, fire sprinkler systems, misting systems, vehicle washes, etc.
Under normal circumstances, hotels and leisure centres need to consider times of greater risk such as seasonal fluctuations in occupancy rates- where water in pipes or tanks may sit unused for long periods of time thus allowing Legionella to take a hold- or when there is a high turnover of guests, potentially exposing a greater number of people to the risk of an outbreak of Legionnaires disease.
Under exceptional circumstances- such as during forced shutdown of hotel and leisure centre premises as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak- it is imperative that the risk of Legionella is managed tightly.
A 15-Point Plan for reducing the risk of Legionella
The risk of Legionnaires disease can be minimised by putting in place a clear 15-Point Plan. Hoteliers and Leisure Centre owners are recommended to adhere to the following:
- Have one named person responsible for Legionella control.
- Ensure the named person has sufficient training and experience to be able to carry out the role competently and other staff are trained to be aware of the importance of their role in controlling Legionella.
- Keep hot water hot and circulating at all times: 50°C – 60°C (too hot to put hands into for more than a few seconds) throughout the entire hot water system.
- Keep cold water cold at all times. It should be maintained at temperatures below 20°C throughout the system to all outlets (this may not be possible when the ambient temperature is high, but every effort should be made to ensure that cold water entering the premises and in storage remains as cold as possible).
- Run all taps and showers in guest rooms and other areas for several minutes to draw through water (until it reaches the temperatures stated in points 3 and 4) – at least once a week if rooms are unoccupied, and always prior to occupation.
- Keep shower heads and taps clean and free from scale.
- Clean and disinfect cooling towers and associated pipes used in air conditioning systems regularly – at least twice per year.
- Clean, drain and disinfect water heaters (calorifiers) once per year.
- Disinfect the hot water system with high level (50mg/l) chlorine for 2–4 hours after work on the system and water heaters, and before the beginning of every season.
- Clean and disinfect all water filters regularly, as directed by the manufacturer, at least once a month.
- Inspect water storage tanks, cooling towers and visible pipe work monthly. Ensure that all coverings are intact and firmly in place.
- Inspect the inside of cold-water tanks at least once per year and disinfect with 50mg/l chlorine and clean if containing a deposit or otherwise dirty.
- Ensure that when carrying out system modifications or new installations they do not create pipework with intermittent or no water flow, and disinfect the system following any work.
- If there is a spa pool (also known as whirlpool spas, ‘Jacuzzis’, spa baths) ensure that:
- it is continuously treated with 2–3mg/l chlorine or bromine and the levels and pH are monitored at least three times per day;
- at least half of the water is replaced each day;
- sand filters are backwashed daily;
- the whole system is cleaned and disinfected once per week.
- Keep daily records of all water treatment readings, such as temperature, pH and chlorine concentrations and ensure they are checked regularly by the manager.