How to maintain the highest water quality standards for your employees by preventing Legionella in your office

Keeping yourself hydrated during a work day is very important, but we need to be careful and avoid risks of exposing employees to contaminated water. Experience shows us that poor design and inappropriate management of water systems in office premises can cause outbreaks of different diseases.

The types of premises, uses of water and disease outcomes are diverse. The health risks are actually preventable and can be controlled. But evidence from outbreak detection tells us that the overall trend is actually increasing. With increasing urbanisation and construction of office spaces, the overall exposure of workers to poorly designed or managed water systems in office premises is increasing. Thus, the risk of disease outbreaks is greatly increasing. Specific actions to lower the risk of an outbreak need to be considered a serious health issue and a specialist provider of water hygiene services should be consulted by office managers.

One of the major challenges is management: management of water supplies in office premises is frequently overlooked. In some countries, management and implementation of the necessary actions for water supplies in office facilities can fall outside the responsibility of the drinking-water supplier. WSPs or water safety plans for managing water supplies are not usually extended to apply within office buildings. In most cases, managers owners or even maintenance personnel are solely responsible for the management of water supplies in such office spaces, while awareness and application of safety guidelines are frequently limited.

Vulnerable groups are especially susceptible to water-related risks and hazards. Important examples include care home facility environments where the growth of different opportunistic waterborne pathogens, like non-tuberculous Mycobacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Legionella is an important health concern and can ultimately lead to significant and totally avoidable costs.

Legionella is a type of bacteria and it can be found in water systems. It can cause the deadly disease known as Legionnaires’ disease. It is a safety and health requirement in the United Kingdom for organisations and businesses to make sure that Legionella is properly monitored within water systems, to safeguard that the safety of work associates, customers and employees is protected. If an employee or client becomes infected by Legionella in the office, it is the business owner or employer who will face the consequences and repercussions, which may include a fine, prosecution, the tarnishing of the business’ reputation and even possible imprisonment.


What steps should I take to prevent Legionella in the office?

The Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) is the main piece of legislation in the United Kingdom, which instigated the movement of safety and health across the country. The Health and Safety at Work Act establishes the regulations that a business or organisation must comply with, to guarantee that safety and health are maintained within the office.

The MHSWR or Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations is another complementary safety and health legislation that dictates to business owners what is expected of them, it also offers them guidance on how to comply with the safety standards.

It is the business owner’s responsibility to monitor any potential risk of Legionella exposure in the workspace. It is also highly advisable to conduct a Legionella risk assessment. Legionella risk assessments allow the business owner to identify potential risks, and subsequently protect against such risks by implementing the necessary control measures.


Legionella can infect the lungs

Legionella pneumophila is a bacterium that can be found in nature, it actually occurs naturally and causes legionellosis, a serious respiratory disease that can affect the lungs. This bacterium in aerosol form can cause an infection in the lungs once it has entered the body through the mouth or nose.


Legionnaires’ disease

We can actually find 2 forms of legionellosis. One of them is milder than the other. The less severe form, known as Pontiac fever, can cause symptoms similar to the ones from the flu or influenza. The severe form is known as Legionnaires’ and can cause a type of pneumonia with the symptoms described below:


·      shortness of breath

·      high fever

·      nausea or diarrhoea

·      muscle pain


Individuals who are diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease need to receive immediate treatment with antibiotics. Otherwise, the consequences can be terrible: late diagnosis or failed treatment may eventually lead to long-term illness and death. Legionnaires’ disease, caused by Legionella bacteria, is deadly in five to fifteen per cent of cases.