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Following the World Health Organisations world health day which highlighted the need for antibiotic development to combat growing healthcare infections, Editor, Scott Buckler sat down with the Health and Safety Executive to discuss their guidance and ongoing awareness of a continuing healthcare threat, Legionella Disease



1.     What guidance on controlling Legionella does the HSE offer to local authorities and public services?

HSE provides several pieces of guidance on controlling Legionella including an Approved Code of Practice, which provides practical information and advice for dutyholders, which include Local Authorities and public services Additional information is available for providers of residential accommodation and nursing and residential care homes.

2.   How has the Barrow incident served as a learning tool?

In August 2002, seven members of the public died and 180 people suffered ill health because of an outbreak of legionella at a council-owned arts and leisure facility in the town centre of Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.
Following the associated court case, The Health and Safety Executive organised two public meetings.  The discussions resulting from the two meetings were captured in a report . This report serves as an illustration of what can go wrong if Legionella risks are not adequately managed.  It highlights the six key failures identified and addresses them individually in part 3.  The key failures are accompanied by advice aimed at legionella control and for more general purposes, so that others can apply the lessons and principles, regardless of the nature of the organisation or their line of work.
The report is used by HSE at both internal and external training events, including those provided for Local Authority Environmental Health Officers and for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.

3.       What legislation must be followed by employers to ensure they are meeting standards on legionella control?

The requirements for employers to ensure they are meeting standards on legionella control are set out in various pieces of UK Legislation, primarily the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, The Notification of Cooling Towers and Evaporative Condensers Regulations 1992, The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. 

4.       How does the HSE work alongside the HPA to tackle outbreaks such as the one in Wales last year?

During outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease, HSE supports the outbreak investigation as part of the outbreak control team (OCT).  HSE, along with Local Authority Environmental Health Officers supply an investigative function to the OCT, visiting and assessing control of risk systems in the outbreak area.  HSE specialists in both Occupational Hygiene, and Biological Agents, provide technical support where needed and in the past have worked closely with Legionella specialists in Public Health Wales, Health Protection Scotland and the Health Protection Agency in this respect.  The arrangement is underpinned by "A memorandum of understanding" drawn up between HSE and the HPA which describes the working arrangements agreed between HSE and the HPA. It recognises the respective roles of each organisation and their shared goals of promoting and protecting high standards of human health and safety.

5.       Are there any measurements or innovations available, which can help reduce the chances of legionella from forming?

Legionella in water systems should be controlled by applying the following measures:

•    controlling the release of water spray,
•    avoidance of water temperatures between 20C and 45C ,
•    avoiding water stagnation which may encourage growth of bio film
•    avoiding using materials in the system that harbour or provide nutrients for bacteria and other microorganisms,
•    maintenance of the cleanliness of the systems and water in it,
•    use of appropriate water treatment techniques (biocide treatments),
•    ensuring that the systems are operating safely and correctly and are well maintained
There are numerous innovations and advances in technologies that have the potential to improve the control of Legionella risk.  These cover the entire spectrum of control and monitoring activities and include rapid testing methodologies, novel cleaning procedures and biocide treatments.

Written by Interview With
Monday, 04 July 2011 15:03

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