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August 29, 2023

5 Signs Your School Needs a Legionella Risk Assessment

small children height sinks at a school, with a green splashback

Overseeing a multitude of responsibilities, you might not fully comprehend the critical role Legionella control plays in preserving a safe educational environment. In this guide, we will delve into the vital indications that your school might require a Legionella risk assessment. We will explore the existence of Legionella bacteria, illustrate how it can flourish within your institution’s water systems, and explain the hazards it can pose.

What Is Legionella?

Legionella is a type of bacteria found naturally in freshwater environments like lakes and streams. However, it can become a health concern when it grows and spreads in human-made water systems such as those found in schools, colleges, and universities. These systems include everything from drinking fountains, air conditioning systems, and showers, to other plumbing systems.

The danger of Legionella arises when it multiplies in water systems that are not adequately managed, leading to the creation of Legionnaires’ disease. This is  a severe and sometimes lethal form of pneumonia. 

People contract Legionnaires’ disease by inhaling small droplets of water (aerosols), suspended in the air, containing the bacteria. Given the right conditions, particularly in systems where water temperatures are between 20-45°C, the bacteria can grow to a dangerous extent.

Why Are Educational Institutions at Risk?

Educational institutions are typically large buildings or campus settings with a myriad of water systems. With such an extensive range of water usage, these institutions naturally have long, complex pipe networks. Water may not always flow consistently through all parts of these networks – certain areas may be used less frequently, especially during holidays or closure periods, leading to water stagnation.

Conditions That Increase the Likelihood of Legionella Growth

Legionella bacteria thrive in stagnant water, particularly at temperatures between 20-45°C, which is typical for many water systems in educational settings. They can also multiply if the water is not properly treated or if the system has accumulated scale or sediment which provides nutrients for bacterial growth.

Another critical factor is that many schools and colleges have older buildings. Ageing infrastructure may mean that water systems are not up to modern standards, with rust, corrosion, or biofilm build-up providing the perfect nutrition for Legionella to thrive.

Key Signs Your School Needs a Legionella Risk Assessment

1. Unusual Changes or Issues with the Water System

Unexpected changes in your water system could be a sign of potential risk. These might include alterations in water pressure, discolouration of the water, or unusual temperature changes. Additionally, a noticeable increase in the frequency of system breakdowns could be an indicator of a larger underlying problem, such as a Legionella risk.

2. Unexplained Illnesses among Students or Staff

One of the most immediate signs of a potential Legionella issue could be a sudden increase in unexplained illnesses among your students or staff, especially respiratory illnesses. Legionnaires’ disease, caused by Legionella bacteria, presents symptoms similar to pneumonia, including cough, high fever, and difficulty breathing. If you notice such symptoms, especially in clusters, you should urgently seek a professional Legionella risk assessment.

3. Lack of Recent or Regular Legionella Risk Assessments

If your school hasn’t had a Legionella risk assessment recently or there’s no regular schedule for these checks, this is a clear sign that you need one. Regulations recommend risk assessments should be reviewed at least every two years, or more frequently if significant changes occur to your water systems or building use.

4. Changes to the Building’s Water System or Usage

Alterations to your water system or the usage of your building can significantly impact Legionella growth. This could include changes like new construction or refurbishment, installation of new water systems, or changes in the water source. Even temporary changes, like shutting down buildings over the school holidays, can increase risk as these periods of non-use can lead to water stagnation – a breeding ground for Legionella.

5. Outdated or Ineffective Legionella Management Plan

An outdated or ineffective Legionella management plan is another sign your school needs a risk assessment. Every school should have an up-to-date, comprehensive plan outlining procedures for controlling Legionella, including regular checks, maintenance schedules, and action plans for potential problems. If your plan doesn’t exist, is outdated or hasn’t been implemented effectively, a new Legionella risk assessment is essential.

Comprehensive Legionella Risk Assessments for Your School

Protect your educational institution and ensure the safety of your staff and students from Legionella exposure by scheduling a Legionella risk assessment with Guardian Hygiene Services. Our accredited team, backed by years of expertise, will meticulously evaluate and control the risk of Legionella bacteria in your school’s water systems, keeping you compliant with legal requirements and safeguarding against potential health hazards.

As ‘The Legionella People’, we are a trusted provider of water hygiene and Legionella control services with esteemed accreditations from the Legionella Control Association, CHAS, Constructionline, and SafeContractor. Our solutions are tailored to the unique needs of educational institutions, ensuring your complete compliance with all relevant health and safety regulations.

Don’t put the health of your students, staff, and reputation at risk – reach out to our specialist advisors today to schedule your essential Legionella risk assessment.

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