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photo of a test tube for legionella
July 31, 2023

Steps to Prevent Legionella Outbreaks in Healthcare Facilities

photo of a test tube for legionella

Legionella outbreaks in healthcare facilities pose a significant risk to patients and staff, making prevention a top priority. Where stringent regulations govern healthcare practices, it becomes even more crucial to address the potential threats of Legionella. By understanding the risks and implementing preventative measures, such as Legionella risk assessments, healthcare facilities can ensure a safe environment and protect the well-being of those under their care.

Guardian Hygiene Services is your trusted provider of secure and effective Legionella risk assessment services tailored to your particular environment. Our dedicated team of experts offer expert advice and comprehensive plans to ensure compliance with legislation and maintain a safe environment.

Understanding the Risks of Legionella

While Legionella is commonly found in natural freshwater environments such as lakes and rivers, it can also thrive in man-made water systems, such as those found in healthcare facilities.

In healthcare settings, like hospitals, Legionella bacteria pose a significant risk due to the vulnerability of patients with weakened immune systems or underlying health conditions. Legionella can be transmitted by patients or staff coming into contact with water sources that have been contaminated including showers, sinks, cooling towers, or hot water systems.

Effective management and control of water systems, along with regular monitoring and maintenance, are crucial in preventing the growth and spread of Legionella in healthcare settings. By implementing appropriate measures to minimise the risk of legionella colonisation and transmission, healthcare facilities can protect the health and well-being of their patient and staff.

Ways to Prevent a Legionella Outbreak

To minimise the risk of a Legionella outbreak within a healthcare facility, implementing effective prevention strategies is essential.

Here are some key strategies to consider:

Proper Water Treatment Practices

  • Establish a water management plan specific to your facility, outlining responsibilities, procedures and protocols for Legionella control.
  • Regularly inspect and maintain water systems to prevent the buildup of sediment, biofilm, or other conditions that can promote Legionella growth.
  • Ensure proper disinfection procedures are in place for water tanks, cooling towers and other water sources.
  • Implement measures to prevent water stagnation, such as regular flushing of unused outlets.

Controlling Water Temperature

  • Maintain hot water temperatures of 60°C or higher to prevent Legionella growth.
  • Ensure cold water systems are kept below 20°C to discourage Legionella maturation.
  • Regularly monitor water temperatures and promptly address any deviations from the recommended ranges.

Water Treatment

  • Implement appropriate water treatment methods to control Legionella growth, such as chlorine or other disinfection agents.
  • Consider the use of biocides or ionisation systems, if deemed necessary and approved by regulatory guidelines.

Compliance with Regulations

  • Familiarise yourself with local regulations and guidelines specific to Legionella control in healthcare facilities, such as HTM 04-01 in the UK.
  • Ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, including risk assessments, record-keeping and reporting obligations.

Regular Monitoring and Testing

  • Conduct regular sampling and testing of water systems to monitor Legionella levels and assess the effectiveness of control measures.
  • Ensure that you are regularly carrying out Legionella risk assessments to provide accurate results and solutions.

An integrated approach that combines proper water management, regular monitoring and risk assessments is crucial for effective prevention of Legionella outbreaks. By enforcing these strategies, healthcare facilities can significantly reduce the risk of Legionella growth and transmission, safeguarding the health and safety of patients, staff and visitors.

High-Risk Water Systems to Be Aware Of

There are several high-risk water systems in healthcare facilities. It is important to regularly check these locations to prevent and control the spread of Legionella.

Some common high-risk locations in healthcare facilities include:

  • Hot water systems
  • Pipework
  • Shower heads and taps
  • Cooling towers
  • Whirlpool baths and hydrotherapy equipment
  • Respiratory therapy equipment
  • Humidifiers
  • Fire sprinkler systems
  • Dental water lines

Regular inspections, water temperature monitoring, water sampling and adherence to maintenance and cleaning protocols are crucial in preventing Legionella colonisation and minimising the risk of transmission.

The Importance of Legionella Risk Assessments

Regular Legionella risk assessments in healthcare facilities play a vital role in ensuring the safety and well-being of patients, staff and visitors. 

These assessments are several for several reasons:

  1. Identifying Risks: Legionella risk assessments help healthcare facilities identify potential sources of bacteria within their water systems. With a risk assessment, our experts can identify areas where bacteria can spawn and spread.
  2. Assessing Compliance: Risk assessments ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and guidelines specific to healthcare facilities such as HTM 04-01.
  3. Preventing Outbreaks: Risk assessments allow healthcare facilities to proactively identify and address conditions that may lead to Legionella growth and transmission.
  4. Monitoring and Management: Regular risk assessments ensure ongoing management of Legionella risks. By monitoring the risks, healthcare facilities can stay vigilant, detect changes in risk levels and take prompt action.

By prioritising these assessments, healthcare facilities can create a safe environment, protect vulnerable populations and minimise the risk of Legionella outbreaks.

A worker wearing a face mask and holding a clipboard

Prevent Legionella Outbreaks With Guardian Hygiene Services

Take proactive steps to prevent the spread of Legionella and protect your healthcare facility from outbreaks. Guardian Hygiene Services can provide you with a comprehensive Legionella risk assessment, with our expert team assessing your water systems, identifying any potential risks and providing tailored solutions to ensure compliance and mitigate the risk of contamination. 

Don’t wait for an outbreak to occur, prioritise prevention and safeguard the health and safety of your patients and staff.

Speak to our specialist advisors for more information or fill out our enquiry form for your expert Legionella risk assessment.

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    Hayley Clements

    Operations Manager

    Hayley Clements is the Operations Manager at Guardian Hygiene Services, bringing over 10 years of experience in Legionella risk management and water safety, along with many qualifications.