If you’ve returned to your workplace or are planning to soon, no doubt health and safety has been at the forefront of your mind. But there’s one aspect you might not have considered yet: your water systems.

Water systems and air conditioners might have been sitting unused since March. Unfortunately, this can make them a key breeding ground for Legionella bacteria. The HSE have released a set of guidelines on handling the issue – but how does it relate to workplaces?

What is Legionella?

Legionella is a type of bacteria that can spread in water and heating systems. There are many different types of Legionella bacteria. Some of the most dangerous cause potentially fatal diseases such as Legionnaires’ disease.

Legionella can appear in either man-made or natural water systems. It is most at risk of appearing and multiplying where the water is stagnant and the temperature provides the perfect breeding ground for it. Thankfully, in most workplaces, the temperature and flow of water can be controlled to minimise the risk of Legionella and its associated health risks.

Air Conditioners

Many of us will be returning to our workplaces, either full or part-time, when there is still a chance of hot weather. For people who have been living through the mini-heatwaves while working from home, a return to an air-conditioned environment might be welcome!

Lots of air conditioning systems will be entirely safe. The HSE guidance provides more information on which systems are at risk and which will require a thorough cleaning before being used again.

Checking Water Systems

Water systems should be checked for Legionella risk and flushed and cleaned if necessary. This includes hot and cold water systems, cooling towers and commercial spas. If they have been used less often during the coronavirus crisis (or not used at all), it is likely they need to be cleaned and checked.

Make sure this work is carried out by someone competent to do so, wearing the correct PPE. If the coronavirus crisis makes it hard to get a competent person to complete this work, it could be safer to not use the water systems – it is better not to take the risk.

One of the most common ways of protecting water systems from Legionella and other bacteria is temperature control.

Training on Legionella and Water Safety

We offer two courses on Legionella:

Legionella and Water Safety provides an overview of the risks of Legionella.

Advanced Legionella covers the subject in more depth and builds on the knowledge gained in the first course.

The workforce is split like never before. While thousands continue to work from home, perhaps indefinitely, others are finding their workplace closed entirely. Some, however, are planning to get back to something resembling normality – at least for some of the time. With lockdown easing throughout the country, it’s likely more people will be returning to their place of work within the next few months.

The focus will overwhelmingly be on getting work spaces COVID-secure, and rightly so. But we shouldn’t neglect general health and safety concerns either. Employers that take this opportunity to review general health and safety arrangements will be ahead of the game.

Water and Electrics

If you have been working from home since lockdown began, it’s likely your water and electrical appliances could do with a check.

Anything dangerous or complex should, of course, be checked by somebody qualified to do the work. In terms of general electrical safety, make sure everything has been tested in advance of the return to work.

Water safety is an often-forgotten focus of health and safety but neglecting it can be deadly. Water systems will have been unused for months in many cases and this creates the perfect breeding ground for Legionella bacteria.


Fire Safety

Your workplace will likely will have a different layout to comply with coronavirus safety rules. This will have an effect on fire safety as it will change the evacuation procedures.

Make sure all staff are aware of any new fire safety arrangements. This will need to be factored in alongside social distancing rules.


Preventing the Spread of Infection

Remember the first weeks back at school after the summer or the dreaded university “freshers’ flu”? When groups of people come together after a break, infections often follow and spread quickly.

Many of the steps you have taken to become COVID-secure will minimise the spread of other viruses too, but it always helps to be prepared and cautious. Make sure cleaning standards are high at all times.


Returning to work can be an anxious time, especially under unprecedented circumstances such as the aftermath of the pandemic lockdown. Employers can take one worry off their employees’ shoulders by making sure they have taken every reasonable step to protect their health and safety when they return.

Legionella is a bacterium that can cause legionnaire’s disease, among other health problems. It can multiply in water systems, especially those which are not properly maintained. It is a vital responsibility to keep people safety from the effects of Legionella exposure.

With so many slowly returning to their workplaces after the coronavirus lockdown, it is more important than ever to be knowledgeable about water safety. Many water systems will have been lying unused since March, increasing the risk of stagnant water and bacteria. Though the focus is mostly on making businesses Covid-secure, employers cannot afford to ignore this potentially fatal risk to health.

Our new Advanced Legionella online course joins our Legionella and Water Safety course to provide a thorough understanding of this key health and safety topic. It is designed for people who have completed the original course and need more information on the subject. It is especially useful for people whose job role makes them a “dutyholder” or “responsible person”, such as landlords, employers and premises managers.

See our new Advanced Legionella eLearning course here.

Our original Legionella and Water Safety course can be found here.