On the 19 September the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued a safety notice over the risks of legionella in a range of hot and cold water-based systems. The safety notice specifically targets businesses and organisations that use hot and cold water for manufacturing purposes or bathing and washing.

The warning was issued after the HSE reviewed outbreaks in Britain over the past 10 years, and found that poor control and maintenance of water systems continues to create a risk to workers and members of the public.

Leisure centres, hotels, hospitals and care homes are amongst several organisations being urged by the HSE to control and regularly review sources of potential risk.

Paul McDermott, the HSE's legionella expert said: “Companies and businesses have a legal responsibility to ensure they're doing all they can to protect workers and the public.

“While the numbers of people potentially affected by poorly maintained water systems and spa pools are likely to be smaller than poorly maintained cooling towers, there can still be fatal consequences. These can't be ignored.”

Legionella and Legionnaires’ Disease

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious lung infection caused by inhaling or drinking water contaminated with a bacterium called Legionella pneumophila.

The disease though not contagious can prove fatal in serious cases. It is three-times more common in men and those most at risk include the over 50’s, smokers and those with underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are similar to flu symptoms, including a high temperature, muscle aches, cough and a headache.

Legionella pneumophila thrives in waters with a temperature between 25° and 45°C. This means Legionnaires’ disease can be caught from a variety of sources including air conditioning units, spas pools and jacuzzis, piped hot water systems, nebulisers and humidifiers, decorative fountains and even potting compost.

Peter Mulhern, a serious injuries solicitor at Thompsons said: “Regular cleaning and maintenance of water supply systems is essential for companies to be sure that they will not be the source of a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak which can prove fatal not just to employees but to visitors too. Although outbreaks tend to be rare, companies are expected to comply with UK regulations and ensure they manage and maintain their water systems safely.”