As the lockdown restrictions ease and more premises begin to open, business owners are warned to be on their guard against Legionnaires’ disease.
With premises closed for the past several months, there is a danger that water in some storage or hot or cold water systems, including taps and pipes may have become stagnant.
Legionnaires’ disease is a lung infection that can prove fatal. It is caused by inhaling legionella bacteria suspended in the air around contaminated water sources.
Because Legionnaires affects the lungs its symptoms, which can include pneumonia, a fever, muscle pain and a cough, could be confused with Covid-19. As a result, people may not realise they have been infected, yet in most cases it can be successfully treated with anti-biotics.
Lucy Wightman, director of public health for Northamptonshire, advised: “This has been a very challenging time for businesses, with many sites needing to close or limit occupancy for a considerable period of time.
“Businesses should seek to be proactive in assessing the risk of Legionnaires’ disease occurring within their workplace to minimise the risk caused by this potentially fatal illness as they prepare to re-open.”
“We have dealt with several cases involving Legionnaires’ disease. In one recent incident, a couple ingested the legionella bacteria while using facilities at a spa. One of them recovered, but, tragically, the other one died.
“In regard to risk assessments, it is important to be aware that responsibility for safety doesn’t just sit with business owners. Anyone in control of the premises, including landlords, is under a legal obligation to ensure the premises are safe.”
The local environmental health department is a good place to start for anyone wanting help and advice on identifying and controlling the risks and ensuring premises can be safely used by all staff, customers and visitors.
Is your workplace at risk?
Full details on the workplaces most a risk and how to carry out a risk assessment can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website