Risk assessment – action for all businesses
If you are considering reopening your premises to your employees and/or the public, the first thing you must carry out is a risk assessment for COVID-19. The HSE has extensive guidance and advice to assist you with this and other considerations for providing a safe workplace, for more information visit HSE website. Please note that other links from the HSE website to gov.uk pages regarding COVID-19 matters are for businesses based in England.
Remember that your business model may have changed, and more of your employees may now be working from home – you must include them in your risk assessment.
You should also speak to your insurance company for any specifics they require you to assess
Legionella – action for all businesses
Employers, the self-employed, and people in control of premises, such as landlords, have a duty to protect people by identifying and controlling risks associated with legionella.
If your building was closed or has reduced occupancy during the COVID-19 outbreak, water system stagnation can occur due to lack of use, increasing the risks of Legionnaires’ disease.
The bacteria are carried in aerosol droplets from outlets such as showerheads, spray taps at sinks, spa pools, garden hoses attached to sprinklers, air conditioning systems, etc.
Before reopening your building, you must take steps to control the risks of legionella. Traditional methods of control include storing hot water above 60°C, and ensuring it reaches 50°C within one minute of running the hot water tap. Similarly, cold water should be stored and distributed below 20°C.
Given the current restrictions, maintenance staff or specialist contractors may not be able to attend your premises to take monthly temperatures. In these situations, you should introduce twice-weekly flushing of your system as a short-term measure to increase water turnover. You should continue to check water temperatures monthly and actioning any out-of-range temperatures. All these actions must be logged.
If your building has been completely closed, you must act a few weeks before reopening:
- 2-3 weeks before reopening: you should consider a building chlorination, especially if you have cold water storage tanks. This is because the temperature of the water in these systems is likely to have increased above 20°C. Take a water sample at this stage, as this gives you time to action unfavourable results.
- 2-3 days before reopening: you should raise the temperature at hot water storage vessels/calorifier(s) to 60°C and turn the hot water taps on at every outlet. Continue to flush the water until the temperature remains stable. Those carrying out these checks are most at risk from the bacteria and must take precautions, such as covering spray taps with a clean cloth, or placing a clean plastic bag over a showerhead that cannot be removed, and cutting a corner of the bag. Continue to flush the system regularly until the building is back in regular use. Again, ensure you log all these actions.
If your workplace has been closed for an extended period and has air conditioning units that have a source of water that can generate aerosol, you will need to assess the risks of legionella being present within them before restarting. Small wall or ceiling-mounted units with closed cooling systems should not present a risk.
Larger units may present a risk if they have improperly drained condensate trays, or humidifier or evaporative cooling sections where water can stagnate, becoming a reservoir for bacteria to grow.
You must also update your Legionella risk assessment with any changes made to the water system or its operation and ensure the written control scheme is also updated. You must also decide what the risks are for your air conditioning units and if you need to clean them safely before they are turned on.
More information is available on the HSE website and in Guidance produced by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) - Legionnaires’ disease: lockdown risks and reopening safely.
Air conditioning in your building
The risk of air conditioning spreading coronavirus is extremely low. If you use a centralised ventilation system that removes and circulates air to different rooms, it is recommended that you turn off recirculation and use a fresh air supply.
You do not need to adjust other types of air conditioning systems. If you’re unsure, speak to your heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) engineers or advisers. Good ventilation is encouraged to help reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.
If your workplace has been closed for an extended period and has air conditioning units that have a source of water that can generate aerosol, you will however need to assess the risks of legionella being present within them before restarting.
Work equipment examinations and testing
There may be potential challenges when carrying out legal requirements for a thorough examination and testing (TE&T) of plant and equipment as a result of additional precautions people need to take to help reduce the risk of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).
The law for Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) and Pressure Systems Safety Regulations (PSSR) remain in place.
You must ensure that your work plant and equipment are and remain safe to use.
HSE has provided advice to help duty holders ensure that their work plant and equipment remain safe to use and to guide decision making to see if TE&T requirements can still be met. For information visit the HSE website .