Businesses advised to assess Legionnaires Disease risk prior to reopening

Businesses which have had to close buildings or reduce occupancy or activity during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, are being advised to carry out risk assessments prior to reopening, as water system stagnation can occur due to lack of use and increase the risks of Legionnaires’ disease.

Employers, the self-employed and people in control of premises, such as landlords, have a duty to protect people by identifying and controlling risks associated with Legionella. This means businesses are responsible for carrying out a risk assessment, to determine whether further action is required to ensure premises are safe to reopen. 

Legionnaires’ disease is a lung infection, caused by inhaling small droplets of water, suspended in the air, which contain Legionella bacteria. Legionnaire’s disease is rarely transferred between people and can be treated with antibiotics, however of concern at the moment is the fact symptoms are similar to those linked with COVID-19, so people may not recognise they have been infected. Symptoms of Legionnaire’s Disease include a high temperature or fever, a cough, along with muscles pains, a headache and sometimes pneumonia. People who are feeling unwell with similar unexplained symptoms should ring NHS111.

Lucy Wightman, Director of Public Health for Northamptonshire said: “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 Legionnaire’s Disease occurring within their workplaces to minimise the risk caused by this potentially fatal illness as they prepare to reopen.

“Each of the borough and district councils have Environmental Health Officers who are working hard to support businesses and workplaces in returning to work, so please use this resource to support you in taking the necessary steps to ensure that your workplaces are safe.”

Further details on Legionnaires Disease, the type of workplaces which may be at most risk and details of how to carry out risk assessments can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website here.

Alternatively, details of local Environmental Health Officers can be found below.

This briefing has been issued on behalf of the Northamptonshire Local Resilience Forum.

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