Legionella Risk Assessments - WHY YOUR LETTING NEEDS ONE!

The letting industry is awash with rules, regs and requirements ranging from deposit schemes to referencing to immigration checks through to inventories, gas safety checks and now legionella (legionnaires' disease) risk assessments.

I can hear the landlords across the country groan and shake their heads.....yet another hoop to jump through, yet another cost to bare and surely its all just a paperwork exercise that they can quickly do themselves as it can't be all that hard to complete a risk assessment now can it?

Quite a few landlords and agents I have spoken to feel that they meet the required ' competent person ' criteria and feel able enough to carry one out therefore saving themselves the cost of paying for an assessor. 

Great I say! BUT... after extensive research and a City & Guilds training course we have quickly come to the realisation that the requirement to be a ' competent ' person is so much more involved and complicated than initially thought. We're already receiving requests from letting agents who think an assessment can be done in just a few short minutes of looking ‘ at ' the water tank or ‘ up ' a cold water tap which is totally not the case! 

To provide a meaningful report you really need to have a firm understanding of the  HSE Approved Code of Practice and Guidance L8 Fourth Edition (all 28 pages and 86 sub para's) as well as HSG274 Part 2 and how to complete risk assessments. You will also need a calibrated thermometer(s) as well as the risk assessment tool (paper based or app) to compile the report. The ACoP L8 also requires a schematic (not necessarily a CAD drawing) of the water system in the property as well as an assessment of the water water tanks and outlets. 

Why am I pointing all this out?

To highlight that it is not that simple to carry out a risk assessment or ' testing of the water system ' as being asked of some inventory providers at point of a tenant check in and to voice the opinion that although some letting agents realise that rental properties now require a risk assessment, they don't necessarily know or understand the actual requirements of the process and associated knowledge and or costs involved.

I feel that the roles of an inventory clerk and those of a risk assessor are indeed different though there is nothing to say the same person cannot do both (as can any competent landlord or agent) but as we all know inventories are much more involved and in-depth than just a '  quick look round ' and a simple report and the same applies to legionella risk assessments. 

My concern is that agents may try to ' tag on ' the report of a legionella risk assessment to an inventory providers role without adequate training or understanding of the risk factors involved for either their agency, the landlord and, more importantly, the tenant and or their visitors.  If a property is not correctly assessed there is a very real possibility of being prosecuted if someone falls seriously ill or worse from a legionella outbreak which is one possible outcome of any subsequent HSE investigation and therefore not a role to be taken lightly.

For balance; it is right to point out that there is no reason why a landlord and or agent who feel competent enough cannot complete such assessments themselves as long as they are prepared to complete the necessary risk assessments and related documentation on a regular basis and keep those records for the required 5 years (minimum).

And again to be very clear; this is not meant to be a case of scaremongering but to highlight the reality which is why we wanted a specific and in-depth training course (not just a half day powerpoint presentation because it was cheap!), why we have aligned ourselves with a registered UKAS testing facility (if required), have specific insurance, have gained qualifications in risk assessments, CoSHH, working at height and other associated courses so that we not only limit our own risk but those of our clients because as soon as we provide that report to the managing agent / landlord / duty holder we are considered equally responsible and culpable if someone contracts the disease and HSE will want to see our processes, control strategies, risk assessments and of course insurance.

Just to put it all into context there are; 

* between 300 - 500 cases of legionnaires disease reported each year

* it can take between 2 and 19 days to show by way of symptoms but usually between 6 and 7 days

* symptoms include, fever, chill, diarrhoea, vomiting, confusion, headaches, severe muscle aches and chills

* there is a 12% mortality rate of those that contract Legionnaires Disease; and

* once contracted the after effects of the disease will last for months or even years and can lead to brain damage and scar tissue being left on the lungs 

Extract from BS 8580:2010 Water quality risk assessments for Legionella control code of practice states that: "Legionella risk assessment is a legal requirement under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, make specific requirements for risk assessment. 

These regulations apply to the control of Legionella and are embodied in the Approved Code of Practice and guidance document, “Legionnaires’ disease: The control of Legionella bacteria in water systems”, otherwise known as ACoP L8 “ 

So for us it is clear that there is so much more to being ' competent ' and that it should not be viewed as just another paperwork exercise to be endured by the already burdened landlord.  

Definition of competent: ' having the necessary ability, knowledge, or skill to do something successfully '

For more info:  http://themetcalfepartnership.com/legionella-risk-...