Legionnaires’ Disease: Risks & Mitigations For Your Business

Legionnaires’ Disease: Risks & Mitigations For Your Business

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By citiesabc resources

A significant part of running any business consists of risk management. As a result of this cultural and legal focus on safety, we’ve seen an absolutely astounding improvement in workplace conditions over the past hundred years, with obvious benefits for everyone involved.

One area that requires ongoing attention is water safety, with Legionnaires’ disease representing a significant risk in particular. Here, we look in some more detail at the disease, the risks it poses, and how to mitigate those risks.

Legionnaires’ Disease Risks & Mitigations For Your Business

 

Legionnaires’ disease

For those who aren’t fully familiar with it, Legionnaires’ disease is a type of atypical pneumonia brought about through the inhalation of the bacteria Legionella pneumophila. While it’s dangerous for everyone, it can be especially dangerous for older people and those with pre-existing lung conditions. 

Legionella pneumophila bacteria are actually quite common in natural water sources. While they don’t pose much of a risk in low concentrations, when they multiply, they can become exceptionally infectious. 

The bacteria can then enter the air in tiny water droplets, from any high-pressure water source such as water taps, air conditioning units, showers, or pools. As the disease can come from such a wide range of different locations, it makes it imperative that business owners take a multifaceted approach to risk management.

 

What’s the risk for businesses?

The first recorded cases of Legionnaires' disease present a very informative case study of the risks associated with it, so let’s take a brief look. 

The first outbreak occurred at the 1976 convention of the American Legion at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Pennsylvania. Within a week of the meeting, around 130 people had mysteriously fallen ill, with 25 of them tragically dying. After a massive investigation into the outbreak, it was found that the cause of the illness was a certain bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) that had been breeding in the water cooling tower and then entered into the air via the air conditioning units.

In addition to the tragic deaths, the disaster destroyed the reputation of the hotel, leading to its closure. The occupancy rate shot down to a mere 4%, with the hotel being forced to shut down at the end of the year.

 

Mitigating those risks

Clearly, the risks posed by Legionnaires’ disease are significant. Luckily, with a comprehensive approach, businesses can often successfully mitigate those risks. We now understand that the bacteria can only grow in stagnant water sources between roughly 20-60 degrees Celsius, allowing us to ensure these conditions do not occur.

By having a comprehensive legionella risk assessment (or LRA) conducted, businesses can start to create a comprehensive water safety plan. This can keep the risk of a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak extremely low, helping to ensure the well-being of everyone who spends time on the business’s premises.

We hope that makes Legionnaires’ disease prevention seem a little more manageable. While the risks are undoubtedly high, by taking the time to carry out risk assessments, and putting a plan in place based on those findings, business owners can essentially eliminate the risk of uncontrolled Legionella pneumophila in their buildings.

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