7 May 2020
By Bryan Smyth
The Association Plumbing and Heating Contractors Ireland (APHCI) is warning employers to ensure back to work procedures include taking measures in advance of opening premises to employees and the public
Due to the current emergency situation, many non-essential businesses including hotels, bars, swimming pools, gyms and leisure facilities, retail outlets offices, dental clinics, factories, schools, colleges and training centres closed at short notice.
It is vital that before employees return to work, these businesses take the correct actions and ensure that all systems in their buildings are thoroughly flushed, cleaned and disinfected. These systems include but are not limited to; heating, plumbing, drains, coolers, humidifiers, air-conditioning, fridges, catering equipment, garden hoses and sprinklers. Common risk points include bath, shower, basin and sink outlets, spas hot- tubs/whirlpool baths, but all systems should be risk accessed and dealt with appropriately.
Legionnaires disease is a potentially fatal lung infection (pneumonia) which can be caught by breathing in tiny water droplets, (aerosols) or contaminated particles left after the water has evaporated. It is not contagious and cannot be spread from person to person. It can be very serious particularly for the elderly or those with other health conditions. The risk increases for those over 45, males, smokers or those with impaired immune systems.
If legionella is present, the simple act of turning on a tap or shower can release the contaminated aerosol which can remain airborne for up to 30 minutes. A small hairdressers salon or an office with a single wash basin is at risk as well as larger businesses.
Legionella bacteria are found in low numbers in many water systems and are generally considered harmless, however with the correct conditions the bacteria can grow and multiply to dangerous levels. Legionella bacteria grow best at temperatures between 20 and 45 degrees centigrade, where there is water
stagnation and impurities in the water like sludge, limescale or rust that the bacteria can use for food. These conditions are currently present in many if not all closed business premises.
Members of the Association Plumbing and Heating Contractors Ireland along with their colleagues in the Heating and Plumbing Association of Ireland are concerned about the potential health risk to customers and staff are available to assist businesses big and small to safely recommission all systems.
Further information available on The Health Services Executive (HSE), and Health and safety Authority (HSA) Websites.