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Some companies may be at risk of Legionnaires' disease



When businesses are closed for a period of time, water and air conditioning can be turned off to save resources. Thus, the heat and lack of clean water flow is the right formula for the growth of potentially dangerous microbes, including the bacteria that contribute to Legionnaires' disease. All commercial facilities that are evacuated or underutilized for more than three weeks, according to health experts and government officials, are at risk of a Legionnaires outbreak.

What is Legionnaires' disease?

Legionnaires' disease is a serious, sometimes fatal form of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria that build up in tubes. It got its name from a fatal outbreak after an American Legion conference in 1

976 at a hotel in Philadelphia. The bacteria were eventually discovered in the cooling tower of the hotel's air conditioning system.

It leads to death in about one in ten cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The National Academies of Science, Technology and Medicine (NASEM) estimate that over 52,000 Americans suffer from the disease each year.

What causes Legionnaires' disease?

Commercial buildings closed for weeks or months lead to stagnant water in these dormant buildings. Stagnant or stagnant water in plumbing can lower the temperature to the Legionella growth area (77–108 ° F). It can also lead to low or undetectable levels of disinfectants, such as chlorine. The lack of chlorinated water flowing through pipes, combined with irregular temperature changes, creates conditions ripe for the Legionella bacteria that cause Legionnaire's disease. As a result, the hot and cold tap water systems – including storage tanks, showers, ice machines, fountains and water softeners – can become unsafe.

Other potential sources of Legionella include:

  • sprinkler systems [19659009] air conditioning
  • toilets
  • decorative fountains
  • hot tubs
  • eyewash stations
  • safety showers 196fu [1965900] idle cooler tower

Your risk of exposure

If water containing Legionella is released from any of these systems in a way that produces aerosol, mist or droplets, these can be inhaled and cause severe, sometimes fatal pneumonia.

The most vulnerable include, but are not limited to:

  • schools
  • gyms
  • factories
  • hotels
  • restaurants
  • outpatient surgical centers

When diagnosed early Legionnaires' disease a minimal health risk. Most cases can be successfully cured with antibiotics and Legionnaires' can not be spread from human-to-human contact.

Controls to prevent a Legionnaire's outbreak

As a minimum, water systems will likely need to be flushed, cleaned, disinfected and recommissioned After being remedied, they should be tested to verify the safety of the water and the presence of sufficient disinfectant.

The CDC recommends taking these eight steps to minimize the risk of Legionella before reopening your business or building.

  1. Develop a comprehensive water WMP (ManagementProgram) for your water system and all devices that use water Guidance to help with this process is available from CDC and others.
  2. Make sure your water heater is properly maintained and the temperature is set correctly.
  3. Flush your water system.
  4. Clean all decorative water features, such as fountains. [19659009] Make sure that hot tubs / spas are safe to use.
  5. Make sure the cooling towers are clean and well maintained.
  6. Ensure that safety equipment including fire sprinkler systems, washing stations and safety showers is clean and well maintained.
  7. Maintain your water system.

The Washington State Department of Health offers these steps for maintaining systems under low conditions of use (but not closed):

  1. Flush cold water systems to maintain temperature and chlorine. 19659009] Monitor and maintain temperatures in hot water systems at the longest (distal) fixtures. Or turn off the heating system, empty and flush the hot water tank and fill with cold water. Then flush the hot water system with the cold water supply to maintain the temperature and chlorine residue similar to the cold water system.
  2. Measure and record the temperature and chlorine residues on the supply water from the tool every day. Use these values, not time, as your best target for flushing at your distal measurement sites. Individual buildings have too much pipeline variability for time to be a useful flushing parameter.
  3. Keep cold water partition-free chlorine residues at or above 0.2 mg / L (mg / L is the same as parts per million (ppm) at low concentrations). Measure it with an approved device. The chlorine levels in the supplier tool can limit your ability to maintain this minimal plumbing distribution. Contact your tool to better understand their operating parameters.
  4. Document all measurements and maintenance measures in a daily log.

What is important to remember is that systems must be actively managed and maintained to protect the health of building users. [19659005] Providing a Safe Work Environment for Employees

You need to think not only about the safety of the customer, but also the safety of you and your employees. To minimize the risk of both chemical and biological exposure when disinfecting and flushing the building's plumbing, appropriate training and personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn.

You can find guidance on worker safety for Legionella control and occupational safety prevention. & Health Administration (OSHA) website. OSHA provides information on the disease, how to identify likely environmental sources of Legionella and methods to reduce exposure.

Employees most at risk

Employees at high risk of developing Legionnaires' disease are those with weakened immune systems and should consult a medical provider regarding participation in flushing, cleaning of cooling towers or other activities that may generate aerosols. Employers should advise their employees to report signs or symptoms that may be pneumonia to their supervisor or a designated person at the workplace. If they have symptoms and work around aerosolized water, special tests are required to determine if they have Legionnaires' disease.

Each building is different and will require different measures based on its plumbing system, usage patterns and water supply source. By assessing your hazards and implementing procedures now, you can protect your customers and employees and minimize the steps required to safely open closed or partially closed facilities.

Additional resources on Legionnaires' disease:

Visit Community Risk Control Library for additional resources or contact your local community agent to discuss additional coverage needs your company.

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