Legionella control in care homes
Control measures and routine procedures for the prevention of legionella in care homes are important tasks that need to be undertaken regularly.
Sadly, these measures for legionella control in care homes are often overlooked and the reasons behind them not fully understood by the staff given the role of managing the process.
Very often we will audit a care home and find that housekeeping staff or a handy person have been given the task of taking water temperatures but without any background knowledge as to why they are doing it, what the acceptable ranges are and what they should do if the temperature readings are outside of the range.
Similarly we find various pieces of equipment being used to record temperatures, from kitchen food probes to stick on thermometers. Many staff do not know where the sentinel points are in a care home – or indeed what they are. It is therefore vital that a designated member of staff has responsibility for undertaking the legionella prevention and control measures.
To help with clarifying what needs to be done in a residential or nursing care home we would recommend that care home managers and providers consult with the published guidance from the Health and Safety Executive. The Health and Safety Executive have launched the 4th Edition of the Approved Code of Practice and guidance on regulations for the control of legionella bacteria in water systems.
In this guidance the HSE describes how the dutyholder (normally the provider in the case of a care home) should appoint a competent person to undertake a risk assessment and draw up and implement any control measures necessary. That competent person could be a member of the care home team such as maintenance person or an external contractor. What is important is that the person has the ability, experience, instruction, training, information and resources to enable them to carry out the tasks competently and safely.
The duty holder should also appoint a competent person to oversee the day to day control of identified risks . This person is known as the responsible person and is often the registered manager of a care home or their deputy.
What is also clear in the guidance is that care homes, whether residential or nursing are considered to be areas of high risk of people contracting legionellosis, due to the vulnerable nature of the residents.
Download a free copy of the guidance and other relevant material from the Health and Safety Executive website www.hse.gov.uk For any assistance with legionella control in care homes, audits, monitoring programmes or general health and safety reviews please contact us on 01603 263217 for a chat about our range of services to help you run your care home well or see our website at Run A Care Home.