What every business should know about ACoP L8 Compliance

Every business needs to understand and carry out their legal duties regarding the control of legionella – the bacterium that causes Legionnaire’s disease, a lung infection that can be fatal.

A serious threat

There is a real and ever-present danger of serious illness or death if legionella bacterium is present in water. Many domestic water, manufacturing processes and industrial equipment create the right temperature for legionella growth and water droplets which help the bacterium spread. If these water droplets carrying the bacterium are inhaled, they can cause the infection.

What is ACOP L8?

Because of this serious threat, in the United Kingdom, there is a legal requirement for business owners to follow the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and carry out a risk assessment to assess the risk of Legionnaires disease on their site. A written scheme of control should be produced for every building and process where there is a foreseeable risk of Legionella growing and being aerosolised.

To help business owners and landlords develop the written scheme and ongoing maintenance and checking a code of practice has been developed. This document has the title Legionnaires’ disease: the control of legionella bacteria in water systems. It is an Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) with the current edition being L8 (Fourth Edition) published in 2013. It is commonly referred to by the shortened acronym, ACOP L8.

ACOPs are approved by the Health & Safety Executive Board with the consent of the Secretary of State.

The Fourth Edition simplified the text and removed the technical guidance, which is now published separately as HSG274 – and available to buy as a book, or download as a PDF for free from the Health and Safety Executive website.

Who is ACOP L8 for?

ACOP L8 is “aimed at duty holders, including employers, those in control of premises and those with health and safety responsibilities for others, to help them comply with their legal duties in relation to legionella. These include identifying and assessing sources of risk, preparing a scheme to prevent or control risk, implementing, managing and monitoring precautions, keeping records of precautions and appointing a manager to be responsible for others.”

Why is it important?

Apart from the moral and ethical obligation of taking all precautions to prevent employees and the public contracting a serious, potentially fatal disease, the Code has a special status in law.

Should you be prosecuted for breach of health and safety law, and you did not follow the advice provided in the Code, you will need to demonstrate that you have complied with the law in some other way or a Court will find you at fault.

This means every business owner, or board of directors, should be aware of the code and have procedures and policies in place that can demonstrate compliance with the code of practice.

Whilst it is not compulsory, and you could take other action to ensure you have legionella under control, following the guidance in the code will normally be enough to comply with the law.

Legal Requirements

From the Code:

This book is for duty holders, which includes employers and those with responsibilities for the control of premises, eg landlords. To comply with their legal duties, duty holders should:

  1. Identify and assess sources of risk. This includes checking whether conditions will encourage bacteria to multiply. For example, if the water temperature is between 20–45 °C, if there is a means of creating and disseminating breathable droplets, such as the aerosol created, eg by cooling towers, showers and spa pools; and if there are ‘at risk’ susceptible people who may be exposed to the contaminated aerosols.
  2. If appropriate, prepare a written scheme for preventing or controlling the risk
  3. Implement, manage and monitor precautions – if control measures are to remain effective, regular monitoring of the systems and control measures is essential. Monitoring general bacterial numbers can indicate whether you are achieving microbiological control and sampling for legionella is another means of checking that a system is under control.
  4. Keep records of the precautions.
  5. Appoint a competent person with sufficient authority and knowledge of the installation to help take the measures needed to comply with the law.
The ACOP document has two main types of information – the code itself, which has legal status and is in bold type and additional guidance which is in normal type. Any relevant regulations are displayed at the start of a section, displayed in italic. In addition, there are colour-coded panels in the left margin, allowing you to see clearly which parts have legal status – the ACOP – and which parts are just helpful guidance.

The Code also includes a useful Glossary at the back which defines all the terms you might come across, along with a suggested further reading list.1

Getting Started

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) have a simple leaflet that can be freely downloaded from their website, Legionnaires’ disease: a brief guide for duty holders which is a useful overview that you may want to read first.

Following on from that, the ACOP L8 is also available as a free download on the HSE website or you can buy a hard copy from HSE Books (current price £15).

If you should require the Technical Guidance HSG274, you will need to buy a copy from HSE Books (current price £20) or download it free from the website.

Topics: Legionella control, ACoP L8, Water hygiene

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Alex Winter

Alex Winter

Alex is a Marketing Contributor and has 5+ years in water treatment and ACoP L8 compliance and works across all six linked areas of the business; Water Treatment, Waste Water, Water Hygiene, Air Hygiene, Engineering and Legionella Training.

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