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  • Writer's pictureNiall Kelly

Keeping your safety showers safe from Legionella

Updated: Jul 7, 2023

water droplets

The well-being of employees is a top priority for every employer; indeed, ensuring their health, safety, and welfare is a legal requirement. Failing to implement proper control systems or conduct thorough risk assessments can have severe consequences, including hefty fines and significant damage to the organization's reputation. Negligence alone can result in prosecution for those responsible for maintaining workplace safety.

This responsibility includes effectively managing risks associated with hazardous substances, such as the presence of Legionella bacteria in your water systems. As such, this is a risk that Health & Safety Managers and Engineers need to be particularly mindful when safety showers and eyebaths are present on your worksite. While safety showers can be essential, lifesaving, pieces of equipment, left unmaintained they can end up presenting a health risk in themselves.

What is Legionella, and how is it related to water systems?

Legionellosis refers to a group of illnesses, including the severe Legionnaires' disease, which resembles pneumonia and is caused by the presence of Legionella bacteria.

The infection occurs when individuals inhale tiny water droplets that have been contaminated by the bacteria. As such, unmaintained water systems can provide a breeding ground for this bacteria and present a threat to worksite safety, and one that Health & Safety Managers/Engineers should pay heed to.

Typical symptoms of Legionellosis encompass coughing, shortness of breath, elevated body temperature, muscle discomfort, and headaches. These symptoms usually manifest within 5-6 days after infection, although the onset may be delayed in some cases.

Accurately risk assess your safety shower systems for Legionella

To accurately assess the risks of Legionella in your water system, Health & Safety Officers/Engineers should ensure that inspections are carried out by a qualified professional who possesses a comprehensive understanding of your specific water systems. This assessment should encompass all emergency safety showers and eye/face wash units within your facility. There is no room for complacency here; a thorough inspection process is crucial.

Factors to consider when mitigating against the risk of Legionella in your safety shower systems:

Legionella bacteria can proliferate in any water system. Several factors associated with safety showers and eye wash units can contribute to an increased risk:

  • Rapid multiplication of Legionella bacteria occurs within a temperature range of 20°C to 45°C.

  • Presence of sediment, sludge, or nutrients can provide a supportive environment for microbial growth.

  • Biofilms, slimy layers that form within the water system, promote the survival and growth of Legionella.

  • Stagnant areas within the water system pose an elevated risk of microbial growth.

Maintaining a balanced perspective is crucial when considering the risk of contracting Legionnaires' disease from emergency safety showers and eye wash units. While this risk is a consideration, it must not overshadow the primary objective of these units, which is to promptly protect individuals in the event of accidental exposure to hazardous chemicals.

Mitigate against the risk of Legionella in your safety shower systems

To mitigate the risk of Legionella, it is recommended that Health & Safety Officers/Engineers ensure that routine weekly inspections are conducted, along with regular servicing. These proactive measures ensure the ongoing effectiveness and safety of emergency safety showers and eye wash units within your facility, minimizing the potential for Legionella contamination and safeguarding employee well-being.

Regular maintenance is crucial to prevent the risk of Legionella in your safety shower systems

Implementing a comprehensive service and maintenance plan is crucial to uphold the cleanliness and functionality of all equipment components, including nozzles, shower heads, and 'Y' strainers. For emergency tank showers, it is particularly important for Health & Safety Officers/Engineers to include an annual disinfection of the water storage tank as part of this plan. Regular servicing and maintenance activities ensure that the safety showers remain in optimal condition, ready to effectively respond to emergency situations and provide the necessary protection to individuals.

We hope that this article has given you some insight into the need to mitigate against Legionella on a worksite which includes safety showers, and the steps that you can take to achieve this.

If you're a Health & Safety Officers/Engineer or Facilities Manager and would look to find out more about having a Safety Shower system installed on your worksite, please feel free to get in touch, call us on 0402 32116.

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