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Businesses warned of Legionella risk when reopening

A tap with running water

Sheffield City Council is asking all businesses that have been closed during lockdown to take action to mitigate the risks of Legionella bacteria that may have built up in their water systems during the lockdown period.

Legionella bacteria causes Legionnaires’ Disease which if caught can result in a serious lung infection. It is treatable however, some people may require hospitalisation and in some cases it can be fatal.  The disease is more common in people aged 50+, particularly men, and smokers are at increased risk.

Like Covid-19, symptoms of Legionnaires’ Disease include; a persistent bad cough, difficulties breathing, severe chest pain, a high temperature and feeling hot and/or shivery.

Legionella bacteria can develop in underused water systems, and as many businesses have been closed for an extended period of time during the pandemic, it is essential that the necessary steps are taken to assess the risk to make sure they are safe to reopen.

The businesses deemed to be most at risk are those where there is the potential for direct exposure from Legionella bacteria to staff and customers via water sources – for example in gym and hotel showers, hairdressers and beauty salons.

These businesses have been contacted by Sheffield City Council to support them in ensuring that health and safety standards are met before they reopen. This will include the Council arranging obtaining and testing samples from their water systems for Legionella.

All businesses are being asked to follow their risk assessments and water safety plans to ensure that they flush their systems before reopening.

The businesses deemed to be at risk of Legionella by Public Health England are:

    • Dental practices

 

    • Hairdressers

 

    • Hotels

 

    • Gyms

 

    • Sports clubs

 

    • Dog grooming salons

 

    • Office buildings (especially those with showers)

 

    • Any organisation that has a water supply and is currently shut down



Businesses who need further advice should contact Public Health England’s Water, Food and Environmental Biology Services York office by emailing YorkFWELab@phe.gov.uk or calling  01904 468 948.

For more information on the risks of Legionella during the Coronavirus outbreak check Health and Safety Executive

Greg Fell, Director of Public Health in Sheffield said: “As we move into the next phase of lockdown, we know that businesses are very keen to open their doors again as soon as possible.  However, it is vitally important that steps are taken to ensure the health and safety of staff and customers. There is a real risk that Legionella could have built up in water systems that haven’t been used and maintained during the lockdown period, so business owners must follow the guidance and make sure that their premises are safe before they reopen.

“The Council is here to support business owners in their preparations and help high-risk businesses to make sure the health and safety requirements are met before they start trading again.”