Are you concerned about Legionella infecting your water systems? Do you have any plans to keep your care home safe from this health risk? In this article, you’ll find out how to protect your care home with Legionella testing kits
Health Risks Care Home Residents Faced
Many of UK’s elderly care home residents suffer from various health and medical ailments. Their weaker immune systems make them much more vulnerable to various lung-related diseases. These include Legionnaires’ Disease and Pontiac Disease.
As homeowner or administrator, it’s your responsibility to minimise such things from happening. One of the things you need to look out for is the bacterium called Legionella. This is the strain that’s responsible for both Legionnaires and Pontiac Disease. Legionnaires’ Disease has a overall 10% fatality rate. In care homes where the occupants are high risk, the likelihood of dying from the disease rises to more than 25%.
HSE is responsible for regulations related to Legionella risk. In particular, HSG274 Part 2 lists all the responsibilities of landlords and business owners.
The first step is a risk assessment and then a written scheme of control. The recommendation from these two documents will set how the scope and frequency of legionella testing.
HSG274 Part 2 requires that you test for Legionella when:
- A water system is treated with biocides, stored or distributed at lower temperatures.
- Anti-Legionella precautions such as temperature settings are not consistent.
- High-risk areas or where there is a population with increased susceptibility, eg in healthcare premises including care homes;
- Your water system is suspected or identified as a source of Legionella
For hot or cold water systems you’ll need to take samples when:
- You risk assessment requires it
- The hot water is stored below 60°C or exceeds 20°C for cold water systems
- The water system is hardly used or stagnant
- Has excess storage content
- Contains debris
- Dead Legs
How to Conduct Water Tests
- Check your water sources. These include taps, showers, and even water tanks.
- Label the sample bottle properly. Don’t hide any important details while you’re documenting the test.
- In case, you suspect that there are is Legionella, observe caution when taking samples (wear a mask to avoid breathing any contaminated aerosols or mists).
- To get samples from the showerhead, you can use a sandwich bag. Just snip off a small piece of the bottom corner and place over the showerhead)
- Cap the sample bottles tightly. This will prevent any chances of leaks while on its way to the laboratory.
How to take samples – cold water systems
- Get the sample from the nearest point of entry or outlet.
- For each branch of the water system, get samples from the nearest and furthest outlet.
How to take samples – hot water systems
- Get the sample from the calorifier hot water outlet and its base, but only if it’s safe to do so. A number of systems use pressurised tanks.
- Take the water from the nearest and furthest outlet for single pipes.
- Get several samples from the nearest and furthest outlet on each loop of a circulating system.
The Frequency of Legionella Test – Hot Water
The frequency and number of samples you take will depend on the risk factor. Most Care Homes use temperature control to contain the Legionella risk. You need to take steps like:
- Keeping the hot water tank’s consistent temperature at above 60°C.
- Making sure that the hot water temperature on the furthest part of your Care home is above the 50°C. You should feel that heat level within one minute of opening the tap.
If you’ve done both of these precautions, HSE recommends checking every six months. If not, check it every week.
The Frequency of Legionella Test – Cold Water
Checking the cold water system for Legionella is easier. As long as the temperature is under 20°C, it’s fine. Usually, this is not a problem since the temperature is cold most of the year. You only need to increase the frequency of checks during the summer months.
Clean and disinfect the water system when:
- The plumbing has changed so much that it’s now necessary to disinfect the whole system
- You see significant levels of sediment within the tank
- When you fail your microbiological results
If you don’t use the water storage for drinking, you don’t have to clean and disinfect it as often. Cleaning, draining and disinfecting a water storage tank is a time-consuming process. On the other hand, checking your water supply for Legionella will not require much effort and time from you.
If you need additional advice you can contact us here at AquaCert.
Author: Duncan Hollis