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Legal obligations apply to employers and to landlords – defined as anyone who rents out a home, or part of a home.

For landlords, Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 sets out responsibilities to keep tenants safe from hazards. Landlords are included in the act’s definition of ‘self-employed’ people.

Duty holders are defined as employers, those in control of premises, and those with health and safety responsibilities for others.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) provides legal duties to control the risk from a range of hazardous substances, including biological agents (of which Legionella is one).

The relevant guidance is contained in the L8 Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) of 2001, revised and republished in November 2013. This is also known as ‘Legionnaires’ disease: The control of Legionella bacteria in water systems: Approved Code of Practice’.

If risk assessments are undertaken for Legionella, as it is by Environmental Inspection, then this should be done in accordance with HSG274 Part 2.

Testing or sampling for Legionella (sometimes referred to as microbiological monitoring) is not usually required for domestic hot and cold water systems, but only in very specific circumstances (HSG274 Part 2, para 2.120). 

Testing for Legionella should not be confused with temperature monitoring, which is a reliable method for confirming the water system is under control.  Health and safety law does NOT require landlords to obtain, or produce a certificate, nor does the HSE recognise a ‘Legionella test certificate’. 

Should you require water testing, this can be arranged by Environmental Inspection.

How to ensure regulatory compliance

  • Assess the risk.
  • Take care in cases where there has not been regular water usage and ‘turnover’. The water must not be allowed to stagnate. Either drain the system prior to being left for long periods, or flush the system well if not used for a week or more.
  • Ensure the hot water is at a suitable temperature (above 50 degrees Celsius) and moving through the system regularly.
  • Ensure the cold water is at a suitable temperature (below 20 degrees Celsius) and moving through the system regularly.
  • Avoid debris getting into the system (cold water tanks being a key risk for this).
  • Minimise the need for water storage e.g. in tanks.

Depending on circumstances, there may be a need for specific control measures, such as automatic dosing of biocides or chemicals.

If you are an employer (with 5 or more employees) then you must keep a record of your Legionella risk assessment. If you are a landlord, there is no legal requirement to do so, but it is prudent, because it demonstrates that you have taken the suitable precautions that you are obliged to take.  

How often is a Legionella risk assessment required?

It should be repeated whenever it is believed that there is a material change in any of the factors within the management plan, or any of the risk factors for Legionella. This will also include upgrades, or additions to the system.

As a minimum, the hot and cold water system should be assessed for legionella risks every 2 years.

It should also be repeated if there is any reason to believe that the organisation’s duties are not being complied with, or the control measures are not adequate.

A change of use of the building, change of system, or change in the responsible person all indicate the need for a new risk assessment.