Businesses and landlords warned after Legionnaires’ deaths

The Association of Heating and Plumbing Contractors (APHC) is reminding businesses and property owners to ensure they are meeting regulations to prevent an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. The warning follows a report from Public Health England (PHE) on the deaths of three men, all caused by the disease.

The men contracted Legionnaires’ disease from a hot tub on display at a garden centre in Stoke-on-Trent in 2012.

The tub had not been cleaned for several weeks, leading to the water turning stagnant and consequent bacteria build up. When the unit was switched on, Legionella particles entered the air and spread throughout the garden centre.

A further 21 other people were found to have caught the bug during the outbreak.

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal lung disease caused by Legionella bacteria, which can be found in freshwater and artificial water supplies.

As highlighted by the hot tub case, direct contact is not necessary to contract the disease.

What regulations are in place to protect the public?

Hotels, hospitals and other public buildings must all be assessed for Legionella, as these structures are particularly susceptible to contamination because of their larger water systems, which enable the disease to spread faster.

Residential properties let by private or social landlords, care homes, schools, leisure facilities and changing rooms must also undergo inspection to protect the public’s safety.

Is Legionnaires’ disease common in the UK?

In February 2015, there were 311 reported cases of the disease, although five of these may have been caught overseas.

What should business owners and property managers do?

Regular Legionella testing and professional maintenance of all water systems is essential for anyone in charge of a public building.

Property owners can use the PHCA Legionella Risk Assessment & Disinfection Scheme to find an accredited professional to implement an inspection and carry out any remedial action if required. The scheme is offered by the APHC.

1 Public Health England, 2015. Monthly Legionella Report: February 2015. [Online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/410242/Monthly_LD_Report_Feb_2015.pdf. [Accessed 29th May 2015].

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