The outbreak of Legionnaires Disease in the Renfrew area, following on from an Edinburgh outbreak in 2012, is a timely reminder to private landlords that they have obligations to carry out legionnaires risk assessments of water systems within their rental properties.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) have an Approved Code of Practice and Guidance as regards Legionnaires Disease. The Code can be found here.
The Code confirms that private landlords have a duty to carry out legionnaires risk assessments on water systems in their properties. Formerly, the Code imposed a 300 litre limit for hot and cold water services, which effectively removed any responsibility from private landlords as regards risk assessments of normal domestic water systems. However, with the removal of the 300 litre limit, private landlords now have an obligation to comply with the Code.
The Code requires private landlords to carry out:
- A risk assessment to identify and assess potential sources of exposure, and thereafter, where a risk has been identified
- To introduce a course of action to prevent or control any identified risk
Legionnaires risk assessments can be carried out by the landlord himself if he is competent to do so, or alternatively can be done by a suitably qualified third party. The ultimate responsibility remains with the landlord, even where he employs a letting agent to manage the property on his behalf.
Legionnaires Disease is potentially a fatal lung infection caused when individuals inhale legionella bacteria. The bacteria can exist in any man made water systems e.g. water storage systems, taps, pipework etc. Issues to be considered when carrying out a risk assessment include:-
- Where water is stored between 20 & 45 degrees
- Where there is stagnant water in any area of the water system
- Where there is rust, sludge, scale or organic mater in the water system
- Whether there are any outlets which are not frequently used, for example showers or taps in second bathrooms
- Where tenants are particularly at risk due to age, illness or weakened immunity
Landlords must regularly review the risk assessment and keep records. Where risks are identified, the landlord must take appropriate action.
Should landlords require further information as regards to legionnaires risk assessments and their own specific circumstances, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Team in our Glasgow or Edinburgh office for further advice.