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Legionella compliance: What is a competent person?

Sadly more and more businesses are  being prosecuted for failing to manage their Legionella Compliance. in 2016, a Sydenham based hospice was sentenced to a two-year conditional discharge after a patient died and a staff member become ill with Legionnaires’ disease.

Although the hospice had put in place some measures to control legionella, it failed to appoint a ‘competent person’ to manage the risk of the bacteria in the building’s hot and cold water systems.

In the light of the ruling, you may be wondering what qualifies someone to take on this role, and whether you have appointed someone with the prescribed knowledge and skills. This post is here to help you find out.

(Want a complete overview of your legionella control duties? click here to enquire)

Definition of a competent person

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), if there is a reasonably foreseeable risk of legionella – and it is reasonably practicable to prevent or control that risk – you need to appoint a competent person to comply with the requirements of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002.

The HSE states that this person needs to have:

“… Sufficient authority, competence and knowledge of the [water] installation to ensure that all operational procedures are carried out in a timely and effective manner.”

Fleshing this out, the HSE explains that a competent person must be able to:

 “… Carry out the risk assessment [for legionella] and draw up and implement precautionary measures… [and] should have such ability, experience, instruction, information, training and resources to enable them to carry out their tasks competently and safely. In particular, they should know the:

  • potential sources of legionella bacteria and the risks they present;
  • measures to adopt, including the precautions to take to protect the people concerned, and their significance;
  • measures to take to ensure that the control measures remain effective and their significance.”

The most important control measure is the routine monitoring of general bacteria numbers, and it must be a competent person who interprets these results and recommends any remedial measures promptly.

As you can see, many smaller and medium-sized organizations with water systems are unlikely to employ someone with the relevant skills and experience to act as their competent person – whether the business is a care home, manufacturer, spa, hotel, school or in another industry.

Fortunately, the regulations allow you to appoint a competent person from outside the organization. If you do this, you need to ensure the third party contractor is able to:

  • check the performance and operation of the water system and its component parts;
  • inspect the accessible parts of the system for damage and signs of contamination;
  • monitor to ensure that your treatment regime continues to control legionella to the required standard.

In some circumstances, this may be the better option than appointing an internal competent person – particularly if it might be difficult to ensure staff and resource availability to monitor your legionella control measures in the long term.

Want to learn more about the steps to legionella compliance?

Call one of our Legionella compliance experts on 0800 080 3045

or visit www.legionellaandfiresafe.co.uk

Compliance You Can Trust


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