Government warnings over Legionnaires’ risk could have been avoided


Since Queensland introduced mandatory testing of health and aged-care facilities, over half tested positive for Legionella bacteria. The government issued 40 warnings in one year.

And that’s just Queensland.

According to the Public Health Act of 2010, Facilities Managers have a Duty of Care and could be held responsible if an outbreak occurs. Yet best-practice risk assessment and minimisation techniques could have prevented these potentially deadly situations.

Legionella bacteria in a facility’s water supply is treatable. Having a prevention plan in place is key to counteracting the devastating effects of an outbreak of Legionnaires disease, a form of pneumonia caused by legionella bacteria.

“The dangers are too high,” says Sanjesh Narayan of NCH Australia. “It’s not worth putting lives at risk. That’s why we always start with a full risk assessment by a water treatment expert before creating bespoke solutions. This method can prevent a Legionella infection before it does any damage.”

Most at risk of Legionella outbreaks are hotels, schools, health and aged care facilities, but under certain environmental conditions, any water system could become a source for Legionella bacteria. Young children, elderly people and those with lung or heart problems are most vulnerable.

The disease is most often contracted by breathing in contaminated water vapour droplets from heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Cooling towers, hot and cold water systems and spa pools also present high risks. This is particularly dangerous as it exposes many people to the affected water supply.

Due to the public health concerns, the need for monthly testing and reporting is laid out in the Australian Standard 3666 ‘Air-handling and water systems of buildings – microbial control’. Assessing and controlling legionella can be undertaken by the facilities manager, but, the legal and reputational risk to businesses and facilities is incredibly high, and contracting a professional provider is recommended.

Chem-Aqua, part of NCH Australia, provides qualified experts to do a full risk assessment. This includes a detailed review of the water system design, frequency of usage, temperature of stored water, drainage and frequent testing of water using a Legionella test kit.

After identifying risks, Chem-Aqua specialists design and implement a bespoke solution including chemical and service provision for cooling systems, microbiological and chemical analysis services and monitoring and control programs.

If you’re not ready to take on the risk of a legionella outbreak at your facility or business, it’s time to make an appointment with a professional. You may finally get peace of mind.