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No Reservations Around Risk Assessment When It Comes To Managing The Legionella Threat

Deadly Legionella bacteria can spread quickly in any water system. SafeCare’s Jamie Tranter shares his tips for safely and responsibly controlling the risk in catering and hospitality environments.

Food regulation and compliance present round-the-clock challenges for catering and hospitality businesses. Health and safety regulations and codes of practice are designed to protect your workers, site visitors and the general public from the evident risks in every working building and facility across every sector.

However, recent cases of Legionella outbreaks present a major cause for concern considering the fatal nature of Legionnaires’ disease. It’s easy for businesses to become overwhelmed by keeping up with every piece of compliance that they must adhere to, yet losing focus can lead to disastrous consequences.

Controlling the Legionella risk and achieving compliance needn’t be a headache. With the right procedures and protocols in place, businesses can achieve round-the-clock compliance with added peace of mind.

By following these four steps, catering and hospitality businesses can successfully reduce the risks:

1. Share Responsibilities

Managing compliance can be the responsibility of any number of people in a hospitality establishment, but being accountable for keeping up with every piece of compliance and regulation is a challenging job for one person to master.

Factors such as updates to regulations, changing production processes all contribute to the challenge of ensuring continuous compliance. While helpful guidelines are made available to assist businesses in keeping compliance in check, the fact is that often, factors that compromise compliance can be hard to detect. While facilities managers are without doubt the experts in their own organisations, they can’t always be expected to demonstrate expertise in every area of compliance.

Assigning key responsibilities to competent individuals will ensure compliance-based tasks such as assessments and log-book management are fulfilled with utmost care and detail. Where there is a lack of experience within the existing team, external consultancy firms can provide the skills and experience, from assessments to remedial work resulting from assessment findings.

2. Invest in Training

Any individual tasked with managing compliance should have undergone the relevant City and Guilds accredited training. This can be provided on-site or a specialist training facility by an external firm. If opting to enlist an external firm to take on the management of compliance in your building or facility, it is crucial to ensure that the firm’s engineers are City and Guilds accredited and have plenty of relevant sector experience.

3. Ongoing Assessment

Frequent risk assessments are key to running a compliant business. Following official assessment guidelines, facilities managers must undertake regular risk assessments because staying compliant is a continual process. Legionella bacteria emitted from an ‘out of control’ cooling towers can travel several miles in the breeze, potentially affecting the wider neighbouring communities as well as you and your workers.

If these vital pieces of plant equipment are not regularly assessed in accordance with official Legionella regulations that ensure the safe control of Legionella risk, dangers are posed to guests, staff and even people within close proximity of the building.

Hostile elements such as scale or corrosion in a poorly maintained cooling tower can result in the growth of Legionella bacteria which can quickly spread throughout the water system, creating a potentially fatal risk to anyone who breathes in the Legionella bacteria contaminated aerosol (water spray).

When it comes to Legionella risk assessment, different elements of the entire water system – beyond cooling towers – need to be assessed on individual cycles. Cold water tanks are evident in most buildings but only need to be assessed on an annual basis whereas hot water heaters (calorifiers) must be monitored monthly.

Infrequently used outlets such as taps and shower heads must be flushed on a weekly basis to ensure that there is no opportunity for Legionella bacteria to breed in stagnant water that has built up between uses.

This is just a snapshot from an extensive list of requirements that must take place at different intervals and remember, these only reference Legionella compliance. When you think about each of the different areas of compliances and regulations that your business must adhere, the importance of keeping it consistent becomes clear.

4. Stay One Step Ahead

While the challenge of maintaining compliance may seem overwhelming, businesses can move beyond the challenge and find peace of mind by investing in the right expertise. This could be in the form of internal personnel trained to be the experts on specific pieces of compliance or this could be in the form of external consultants who have extensive experience and expertise in assessment and remedial action.

By investing in training such as City and Guilds accredited courses that will bring your nominated internal experts up to speed with compliance, or by enlisting the right consultants and working with either to develop a set of policies and procedures your business can remove the stress of consistent compliance. In doing so, you will be safeguarding your workers, your customers, your reputation and your bottom line.

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