Legionella and Your Nursery: What Should You Do?

Legionnaires’ Disease might not be common in the UK, but it is a potentially deadly condition nevertheless, and a threat that needs to be taken seriously. According to data from Public Health England, there were 331 confirmed cases officially reported in 2014, with men accounting for more than two-thirds of this number.

What is legionella?

Legionella is a type of bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ Disease, a pneumonia-type illness, and is transferred through the inhalation of contaminated water or soil. As the legionella bacteria thrives in water temperatures of 25 to 45 degrees Celsius, it is most commonly found in water cooling towers, hot-water tanks and air-conditioning systems that contain large condensers.

Legionnaires’ Disease presents symptoms that are similar to pneumonia, including shortness of breath, chest pains and a persistent cough. Other signs to watch out for include flu-like symptoms such as headaches, a high temperature above 38 degrees Celsius, chills and tiredness.

What does this mean for nurseries?

The problem of legionella and the risks associated with Legionnaires’ Disease is a particularly big cause for concern for nurseries and schools. Children who arrive at nursery with pre-existing bronchitic conditions such as asthma will be especially vulnerable to lung infections. This means that if they come into contact with legionella bacteria, they are more likely to contract Legionnaires’ Disease.

Buildings that have older plumbing can sometimes be particularly susceptible to bacteria such as legionella, which thrives in still water. Older pipework can often result in the accumulation of stagnant water – the ideal breeding ground for legionella bacteria.

What is there to consider from an insurance standpoint?

dot2dot and their Health and Safety Partner, Croner, advises that there is a legal duty to complete a risk assessments in relation to legionella. Buildings that do not have industrial condensers, water storage tanks or showers are easier to perform checks on, but all water systems must be checked regularly. For more complicated systems, Croner recommends using the services of an outside specialist who will be able to ensure that all pipes, tanks and air conditioning systems are free from any standing water.

Regular flushing of the building’s water systems will help to reduce the risk of legionella, and this simply involves running all taps and shower systems. During term time this won’t be much of an issue, however extra measures should be taken during the school holidays to ensure that water isn’t left standing or becomes stagnant.

As always, it is important to keep a record of your risk assessment and the regular checks completed to evidence the safety measures taken.

For more information on legionella and your legal obligations from a nursery insurance standpoint, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of the dot2dot team.