Legionella Control –– Risk Assessments – Cover all the Risks!


With one of the latest cases of Legionnaires disease to hit the news (the tragic death of TV Chef Ross Burden - see below) it reminds us that there are many means of transmitting Legionella bacteria, of which some are often overlooked.

One of the questions this case raises is - Was the risk overlooked during the ‘Legionella Risk Assessment’? 

Perhaps with an occasionally used piece of equipment which was not attached to the water system the equipment was overlooked when the assessment was undertaken. 

It may be that the risk assessor was not suitably skilled to determine that a risk could be present, or, that the assessment picked it up the risk but suitable measures were not put in place following the assessment. 

At this stage we do not know what occurred but it does help to identify possible weaknesses with practice. 

What practicably can be done to help ensure that all risks associated with Legionella bacteria are picked up during a Legionella Risk Assessment?  We have tried to provide some basic practical guidance points for our clients to consider when instructing Risk Assessments :

  1. Wherever possible ensure that when the Risk Assessor is scheduled to undertake the assessment a member of staff who is familiar with the site water services shows the assessor all areas of the water system/s. 
  1. Ensure that prior to the Risk Assessment site staff consider all site water services that the Risk Assessor should be made aware of, and that this includes any equipment that may not be connected to the water system but may use water when in use e.g nebulizers in health care premises, or any systems detailed within Part 3 of HSG274 ‘Other Risk Systems’, examples include - vehicle wash systems, water features, horticultural misting/irrigation systems, hoses, humidifiers, spa pools, whirlpool baths, industrial processes etc. 
  1. Provide the Risk Assessor with access to all areas of the site and access to all equipment that may be used occasionally but is not connected to the system. 
  1. Ensure the proposed company and Risk Assessor scheduled to undertake the assessment have suitable accreditation, experience and skill to undertake the assessment competently. 
  1. Act on the Risk Assessment.  A control scheme should be put in place to manage the findings and recommendations of the Legionella Risk Assessment and this should be regularly reviewed as should the Risk Assessment. 
  1. Any ‘Other Risk Systems’/equipment identified during the assessment should have a detailed set of procedures to instruct the user on the safe operation and maintenance of such equipment. Procedures for safe use of ‘Other Risk Systems’/equipment should be located so that the equipment cannot be used without instruction procedures being drawn to the attention of the operator.  
  1. Suitable and sufficient Training should be provided to any potential user of the ‘other Risk Systems’ 


Previous news items provided by 3C have highlighted unusual risks associated with Legionella: 

Legionnaires Disease – Birthing Pools http://3cet.com/Latest-News/Legionnaires-Disease-%E2%80%93-Birthing-Pools_74.htm 

Legionella News – Compost Threat http://3cet.com/Latest-News/Legionella-News-%E2%80%93-Compost-Threat_70.htm 

The above information is not meant to be an in depth analysis covering all requirements of the safe management of water services in the context of Legionella Control but purely to provide a few obvious points to consider when undertaking assessments. 

If unsure about the systems you have in operation or would like a review of your current practices please contact 3C for guidance. 

Summary of recent News Case as detailed in the Daily Mirror 

The TV chef Ross Burden who was previously reported to have died of cancer in July aged 45 apparently died due to contracting Legionnaires’ disease in a hospital in Auckland, New Zealand. 

He was receiving treatment for leukaemia, but breathed in Legionella bacteria present in Auckland Hospital's hot water system, according to an interim coroner's report published in New Zealand’s Sunday Star Times. 

Ross Burden's mother, had stated that he was doing well after a successful bone marrow transplant for his leukaemia.  But then he was diagnosed with standard pneumonia and given a nebuliser to help him breathe. Friends who visited him noticed the nebuliser was being filled up from the tap rather than with sterile water, and she believed that was the source of the Legionella infection. 

See full news item: