Water systems need to be checked before reopening
The COVID-19 restrictions have required certain businesses and services to be closed to protect public health. As a result, many buildings have been unoccupied for a significant number of weeks.
It is important to consider that any water that has been standing in pipes and tanks for this length of time has the potential to allow the growth of harmful bacteria particularly Legionella, and to become tainted by the material it is in contact with.
Legionnaires' disease is a respiratory illness which occurs when tiny droplets of water containing Legionella bacteria are breathed into the lungs of susceptible people.
These tiny airborne water droplets can be produced by outlets (taps and showers), spa pools, hot tubs, air conditioning units, etc.
Health and safety law requires employers, business owners and landlords to manage the risks of exposure to Legionella to protect the health and safety of employees, visitors, and tenants.
In preparation for reoccupation as the restrictions are lifted, any water system should be assessed and measures taken to ensure that it is fit for purpose and is not harmful to health before it is brought back into use.
This is particularly important where showers are in use, for example, in hairdressers, hotels, gyms and sports clubs.
The following websites provide further information on bringing water systems back into use:
- Health and Safety Executive website - Legionella risks during the coronavirus pandemic
- Public Health England website - Ensuring safe water supplies for businesses following COVID-19 lockdown
- Chartered Institute of Environmental Health - Legionnaires' disease: lockdown and reopening safely