Legionella - The law

There are 4 main statutes which are relevant to the control of legionella bacteria;

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA)
  • The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH)
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 (MHSWR)
  • The Notification of Cooling Towers and Evaporative Condensers Regulations 1992

All of the above have been considered by the Health and Safety Commission when writing the Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) L8, along with what practices have proven efficacy (i.e. best practice). The L8 is not however legislation.

If you were to be prosecuted, it would probably be under either HSWA or COSHH as it is these which give the ACoP L8 its bite.
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The ACoP has been approved by the Health and Safety Commission, with the consent of the Secretary of State. It gives practical advice on how to comply with the law. If you follow the advice you will be doing enough to comply with the law in respect of those specific matters on which the code gives advice. You may use alternative methods to those set out in the code in order to comply with the law.

However, the code has a special legal status. If you are prosecuted for breach of health and safety law, and it is proved that you did not follow the relevant provisions of the code, you will need to show that you have complied with the law in some other way or a court will find you at fault.

You have to consider the risks from legionella that may affect your staff or members of the public and take suitable precautions. As an employer or a person in control of the premises (eg a landlord), you must:
  • identify and assess sources of risk;
  • prepare a scheme (or course of action) for preventing or controlling the risk;
  • implement and manage the scheme – appointing a person to be managerially responsible, sometimes referred to as the ‘responsible person’;
  • keep records and check that what has been done is effective; and
  • if appropriate, notify the local authority that you have a cooling tower(s) on site.

Assessing the risk

The risk assessment is your responsibility as the employer or person in control of the premises. You may be able to carry out the assessment yourself but, if not, you should call on help and advice from within your own organisation or, if this is not available, from outside sources, eg Steve Mount Associates Ltd.
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