On Monday 23 March, the UK was put into lockdown to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Businesses up and down the country closed their doors, not knowing when they would return. Properties became remnants of a life before lockdown. With the government announcing non-essential retailers will be able to reopen in England from 15 June, many businesses may be preparing to open their doors for the first time since late March. Business owners and managers will be thinking of how they can get their business back on track, but how many of them will be thinking about Legionnaires’ disease?
Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia caused by any type of Legionella bacteria. You can catch Legionnaires’ disease if you breathe in droplets of water containing the bacteria that causes infections. It’s usually found in places such as hotels, hospitals, or offices where the bacteria have got into the water supply, and can be found in air conditioning systems, showers, taps, or toilets.
Legionella bacteria grows in water systems at temperatures between 20°C and 45°C, especially where turnover of water is low. Due to the lockdown, buildings across the country have been left unoccupied and run the risk of water stagnating, providing conditions where harmful Legionella bacteria can grow. Beta Group is urging property owners and business managers across the country to be aware of the risks and take appropriate action.
As accepted over the last few months, some people are more vulnerable than others to COVID-19. The same can be said for Legionnaires’ disease. Those with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer, and chronic lung disease are at greater risk of infection, and infection can cause severe symptoms.
During the current Coronavirus pandemic, attention has rightly been on reducing the spread of the virus; however, as work practices change, this can have a bearing on the safety aspects of buildings, including the risks associated with Legionella bacteria.
Health and Safety regulations continue to apply, and property owners maintain a legal obligation to protect those in and around their properties from exposure to Legionella bacteria. The key to preventing Legionnaires’ disease is to maintain building water systems to reduce the risk of Legionella growth, and it is imperative that water systems are made safe prior to reoccupation. To get a water test booked in with Beta Group, contact us immediately on 01706 878 330.
Some water systems may be unsafe to be put straight back into use on return from lockdown. Beta Group advises you to speak to our water engineers and devise a plan to recommission your water system to allow for a speedy and safe start-up.
Thorough cleaning and disinfection is required followed by proper sampling to determine that the water system is safe, and Legionella is being controlled, before a water system can be used. It’s vital you do this before you bring your staff back to work.
Sometimes it may be necessary to repeat the disinfection and sampling process to achieve control of the bacteria; this will depend on the concentration of contamination that has built-up within the system.
The impact of the lockdown caused many businesses to move towards homeworking arrangements during the Coronavirus pandemic which, in turn, reduced the demand for water in commercial buildings. This possibly has had the unintended consequence of increasing the risk of water stagnation.
As part of Beta Group’s building services, we offer water sampling and testing to ensure water systems are safe to use. Our team of on-the-road engineers have been carrying out servicing projects for schools across the country in preparation for their re-opening in June. Wearing PPE, including face masks and disposable gloves, we’ve taken as many precautions as possible to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and will continue to do the same in the future.
If you’re unsure about your water systems and need to get it tested for Legionella, contact us immediately on 01706 878 330 or speak to an agent via our Live Chat function. Don’t forget to ask about our standard 3 ply face masks, which will help you adhere to social distance rules if, and when, your staff return to work.