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  • Lisamarie Lamb

How Does Social Distancing Increase The Risk Of Legionella?

Most of the time, when it comes to any kind of sickness, stay away from other people is a good thing. If we’ve learned nothing else during this time of COVID, then at least we know that; it’s what social distancing is all about.

However, when it comes to legionnaires’ disease, staying away from people isn’t as helpful as you might hope. In fact, since legionnaires’ disease is not passed from person to person, unlike coronavirus and other viruses and conditions, if you have legionnaires’ disease, there is no reason to stay away from anyone; social distancing won’t prevent its spread.

Ironically, social distancing might actually increase the risk of legionella bacteria forming in your outlets and water systems. Read on to find out what this is.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Working From Home

To begin with, many offices have closed temporarily, and their employees are now working from home. Excellent – this is exactly what was needed to curb the spread of COVID-19, and it seems to be working. Yet COVID-19 is not what this blog is all about, and it’s not what Assured Water focuses on; we concentrate on legionella bacteria, and working from home is making this threat worse.

When offices are left empty, no one is using the water systems. They are often left to become stagnant, harbouring plenty of legionella bacteria within them. Think of those cold water storage tanks where the water hasn’t been turned over in months. Think of the water outlets like the basins and toilets and – worst of all – showers where the water is just sitting in the pipework growing legionella every day. Then think of all the people coming back to work and turning on those taps, using those toilets, and having a nice shower after cycling to work. It’s not a good state of affairs.

Social Distancing In The Workplace

As we’ve said, we’ve nothing against social distancing; in fact, we think it’s great, and we’re happy to do it and wear masks (especially as there is no risk of legionella within those masks). However, it’s important to be careful when legionella is concerned, and social distancing in the workplace might be problematic in terms of cases of legionnaires’ disease.

Social distancing in the workplace means that desks have been moved so people are sitting farther apart. Great move; no legionella worries there. But social distancing in the workplace also means that some basins, urinals, and toilet cubicles are out of action so that people can still be socially distant in the bathroom. This is less good in terms of legionella. It means that some outlets are not being used at all, and the build-up of legionella bacteria will be high.

What Can Be Done?

There is no need to worry, though. When it comes to social distancing and legionella, there is a simple solution. Flush the little-used outlets every week. This is the best thing you can do. If a sink is not being used because you’re making space for people, flush it through once a week to clear out the muck. The same goes for toilets, for showers, for urinals, and so on.

If the building is completely empty because everyone is working from home, that’s no reason to let legionella bacteria grow within your water system; those little-used outlets (which are all of them in this case) need to be flushed through just the same. In fact, you can run down the cold water storage tank completely if the building is going to be unoccupied for some time – that negates the risk very well indeed (no water, no legionella).

It’s also wise to have a legionella risk assessment carried out during this time to ensure that your building is safe for occupation. Plus, when you recommission your tank, why not engage a professional to carry out a clean chlorination too? That way, you know all is going to be well.

Contact Assured Water

Assured Water has been working in the water treatment and hygiene industry, and specifically in legionella control, for 40 years, and we know what it takes to keep your building safe. Contact us today to find out more and discuss your water hygiene requirements for now and in the future when social distancing is no longer a concern but legionella bacteria definitely still is.

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