Jul 18, 2018 Last Updated 9:23 AM, Jul 10, 2018

Biochemica’s top seven tips on preventing the growth of Legionella in leisure centres

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Preventing the growth of Legionella is extremely important, especially in a leisure centre where so many water systems are in place.

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Under the Health and Safety at Work Law, the duty care holder and any company or responsible person appointed to oversee any kind of monitoring work could be prosecuted if an individual contracted Legionnaires’ disease on site. Below, Biochemica Water has provided seven tips on preventing the growth of Legionella in a leisure centre.

1. Appoint a dedicated hygiene manager

This doesn’t have to be a specifically-hired manager, it could be a role assigned to an in-house member of staff or it could be outsourced. However, this should be one of the first steps followed to help prevent the growth of Legionella. Monitoring all the water systems and carrying out the appropriate checks and treatments is a big task, especially in a leisure centre. Any missed checks or treatment could result in a Legionella outbreak.

2. Conduct a risk assessment

Risk assessments are key to preventing the growth of Legionella. A risk assessment should provide details on any slight risk of Legionella growth. Things to look out for in the risk assessment are little-used outlets (disabled toilets are often at risk) and dead legs. The risk assessment should be thorough, so it is probably best to hire a company who specialises in this. However, it is not a legal requirement for a specialist company to conduct a risk assessment, so if you have someone in your company with the appropriate and up-to-date Legionella training; they can conduct the risk assessment.

3. Flushing those little-used outlets

As mentioned above, little-used outlets are often at risk of Legionella growth. This is because when they aren’t used the water can stagnate, then when they are used again there could be a potential Legionnaires’ outbreak. An example of a little-used outlet in a leisure centre could be shower units in a changing room. During the off-season, showers in these changing rooms can go unused for months. These little-used outlets should be flushed at least once a week to stop the water from stagnating and preventing Legionella from growing.

4. Remove dead legs

Dead legs are a breeding ground for Legionella bacteria because the water is usually room temperature and it stagnates. This can become particularly dangerous when the water slowly releases itself back into the system. We will all recognise dead legs, most of us will have them in our homes, and in a leisure centre, it is almost certain you will find the odd dead leg. The remedy for a dead leg is quite simple, remove it. This should be done by a qualified plumber.

5. Taking temperatures

Temperature is everything when it comes to Legionella. Anything between 20 to 45º, and Legionella thrives. Therefore, the temperatures in hot and cold systems should be regularly monitored. If you have a fluctuation in the cold water temperatures, the cold water pipe is heating up somewhere. This could be because the pipe is next to a hot water pipe or a heater, this will need to be assessed. If the hot water is not hot enough, the hot water heater may need turning up. Any fluctuations in temperature should really be reported to a plumber. If the temperature is right, the less likely Legionella is to grow.

6. Take regular samples

This may seem obvious, but is very important in preventing Legionella, besides, how do you know you are preventing the growth of Legionella if you aren’t checking for it? Again, this is something which should be outsourced because it requires the samples being sent to a laboratory to be checked for Legionella. If your sample does return positive, it allows you to pinpoint exactly where the Legionella is growing, and you can then reassess that area.

7. Chlorinate the system

Chlorinating the system should occur every six months to one year. This is where the system will be drained, chlorinated, flushed and filled up again. This kills any lingering Legionella bacteria and gives the system a good clean.

As mentioned above, flushing little-used outlets is a great way of preventing the growth of Legionella bacteria. Recently, Biochemica Water undertook a contract with a southern-based council which had a leisure centre with ongoing bacterial issues.

The problems were in the football changing rooms, just outside the leisure centre. We came in and reviewed the current system when we discovered that they had a flushing regime that wasn’t adequate.

After an initial assessment, we installed 42 new showers in 10 different changing rooms, eight of the changing rooms had four showers in each. We re-piped the whole building, removing the dead leg in the first three showers in each changing room, meaning they store no water. We installed a new battery-powered data logging auto-flushing shower in the last shower in each changing room. Each battery will last in excess of five years. Because the shower furthest away from the main water supply is more likely to contain Legionella, an auto-flushing shower was installed so that the shower flushed itself in a set time period. The flush time can be changed to flush every hour, every couple of hours etc. In this case, it was best for the shower to flush automatically for three minutes every 12 hours. When we arrive to site, we download the information to prove to the council that the flushing has occurred. The auto-flushing showers also have the capability to wirelessly download data, meaning that the data can be remotely accessed, and the flushing can be controlled from anywhere in the country.

All the showers installed are water-saving showers, aimed at reducing the amount of water wasted. Because of this, if someone uses the auto-flushing shower, it won’t flush again for another 12 hours.

The newly-installed system has had a positive effect on the football changing rooms at the leisure centre, with our first samples coming back as Legionella negative.

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