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A guide to opening your building safely

If your building is closed or has reduced occupancy during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, water system stagnation can occur due to lack of use, increasing the risks of Legionnaires' disease for returning occupants.

As a result of the pandemic, there is also the potential for an increased number of people to be susceptible to Legionnaires’ disease due to a compromised respiratory system during or after infection with COVID-19.

If you are an employer, or someone in control of premises, including landlords you must check your water systems before opening. 

We've included a helpful guide below and if you need specialist advice, please contact our water hygiene team Manchester 0161 872 7111 or London 0203 384 6175

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1. Water stagnation

Stagnation is the major risk contributor

General advice is that water systems should be in constant use and no more than 24 hours supply be stored in tanks and calorifiers.

Stagnation allows for water to remain static in tanks, cylinders, pipework etc. providing a habitat for micro-organisms to flourish.

2. Review your risk assessment

Reviewing the risk assessment is your responsibility - check it is still valid.

Has your business changed the building use, decreased the occupancy numbers or had refurbishments carried out which have changed the water systems? When was the last time you reviewed your control measures?

3. Risk reduction options

Additional steps prior to reopening could include:

  • Flushing through hot/cold water systems with fresh mains water for several minutes.
  • Flushing through larger hot/cold water systems (including those with tanks, showers, calorifiers etc.) for a significant period of time.
  • Ensuring that the system is capable of delivering water at safe temperatures by checking temperatures ahead of reopening.
  • Increasing the temperature of hot water systems to above 60°C if possible and drawing it through to all hot water outlets.
  • Undertaking microbiological sampling for Legionella bacteria.
  • Undertaking a chemical or thermal disinfection of the water system as necessary.

4. Keep your records!

Your records should be up to date and include:

  • The appointed responsible person(s) for conducting the risk assessment, managing, and implementing the written scheme.
  • Any significant findings of the risk assessment.
  • The written scheme and its implementation details about the state of operation of the water system, i.e. in use/not in use.
  • The results of any monitoring inspection, test or check carried out, and the dates.

AEC are a trusted compliance partner and a member of the Legionella Control Association 


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