Businesses risk fuelling Legionnaires’ disease without vital post-lockdown water checks, warns CIEH

14 May 2020, Ross Matthewman

Businesses are being urged to carry out vital safety processes to their water systems to avoid increasing the risk of Legionnaires’ disease as they reopen following the COVID-19 lockdown, CIEH warns.

With hot and cold water systems out of action for several weeks, the chances of bacteria forming which can cause Legionnaires’ disease – a potentially fatal type of pneumonia – are much greater when businesses close for long periods.

This is combined with the potential for an increased number of people to be susceptible to Legionnaires’ disease due to a compromised respiratory system during or after infection with COVID-19.

CIEH, which has published new guidance on Legionella for businesses reopening following the COVID-19 lockdown, says it is vital that additional controls are put into place before any water systems are used again.

Supported by the Local Government Association (LGA), CIEH’s new guidance highlights key risk factors, legal requirements, and sets out advice to businesses on ensuring their water supply is safe and ready to use.

In addition, CIEH has produced an on-demand webinar that provides an overview of the current situation and offers practical advice on how best to prevent Legionella outbreaks in closed buildings.

Debbie Wood, CIEH Executive Director for Membership and External Affairs, said:

“With a number of businesses either tentatively reopening or planning to do so over the next few weeks, it is vital that a second possible public health risk is avoided.

The perfect conditions have been created for the spread of Legionella in water systems. Before opening, it is essential that businesses properly consider these public health implications and take appropriate action by following our guidance.” 

Cllr Katrina Wood, Vice Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

“Many hot and cold water systems will be stagnant due to businesses being closed for several weeks, increasing the risk of bacteria forming which can cause life-threatening Legionnaires’ disease.

The lifting of lockdown controls will create pressure to quickly return to normal operations, but it’s vital that additional controls as outlined in this guidance are put into place before any water systems are used again.”

For enquiries please contact Ross Matthewman, Head of Policy and Campaigns.

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