Businesses in Northamptonshire which have had to close buildings or change the way they work because of the coronavirus outbreak have been urged to check for the risk of Legionnaires' disease before they re-open.
Water system stagnation can happen because of a lack of use which increases the risks of the potentially fatal illness and businesses are held responsible for risk assessments to check whether further action is needed.
Legionnaires’ disease is a lung infection, caused by inhaling small droplets of water, suspended in the air, which contain Legionella bacteria. It is rarely transferred between people and can be treated with antibiotics, but because symptoms are similar to those for Covid-19 people may not realise they have been infected. Symptoms of Legionnaires' disease include a high temperature or fever, a cough, along with muscle pains, a headache and sometimes pneumonia. People who are feeling unwell with similar unexplained symptoms should ring NHS111.
Lucy Wightman, director of public health for Northamptonshire, said: “This has been a very challenging time for businesses, with many sites needing to close or limit occupancy for a considerable period of time.
"Businesses should seek to be proactive in assessing the risk of Legionnaires' disease occurring within their workplaces to minimise the risk caused by this potentially fatal illness as they prepare to re-open.
“Each of the borough and district councils have environmental health officers who are working hard to support businesses and workplaces in returning to work, so please use this resource to support you in taking the necessary steps to ensure that your workplaces are safe.”
Employers, the self-employed and people in control of premises, such as landlords, have a duty to protect people by identifying and controlling risks associated with Legionella.
Further details on Legionnaires' disease, the type of workplaces which may be at most risk and details of how to carry out risk assessments can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website at https://www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/workplace-risks.htm
Alternatively, firms can contact their local council's environmental health officers.