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Legionnaires disease

Legionella is the organism which is the cause of most types of Legionnaires disease, a disease that was named after an outbreak of a severe pneumonia-like outbreak that occurred at an American Legion Convention at a hotel in Philadelphia, USA in 1976. It is thought that the organism was present in the cooling towers at the hotel which contaminated the air conditioning system allowing the bacteria to come into contact with the hotel guests.

Legionnaires Disease is uncommon but serious. It has symptoms similar to the flu and because of its similarities it is sometimes difficult to diagnose.

The bacteria Legionella pneumophila is widespread in nature but mostly found in water, where in places such as ponds, lakes and soil does not create a problem. Outbreaks can occur from purpose built water systems where temperatures are high enough to encourage the bacteria to grow, for example cooling towers, air conditioning units, spa pools etc.

To prevent Legionnaires Disease, companies with such systems must comply with regulations which require them to maintain them properly.

If you have responsibility for a Cooling Tower you must under the notification of Cooling Towers and Evaporative Condensers regulations, notify the local authority in writing with details of where it is located. The relevant form can be found under related downloads at the bottom of this page.

The notification register provides a starting point in any investigation and will enable the most likely sources to be checked quickly. The register is available to the public by clicking on related downloads at the bottom of this page.

Whilst the task of maintaining records of wet cooling systems under the regulations rests with local authorities, responsibility for enforcement of standards of assessment and control is split between the Health and Safety Executive (a government agency) and local authorities, depending on the main activity of the premises.

Operators of installations should be aware that both the local authority or HSE may undertake inspections of their premises to ensure standards are met and will take enforcement action where appropriate. However duty holders must prepare risk assessments.