Proposed Legionella Standard Undergoing Further Revisions
The proposed Legionella standaRD from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has been sent back to committee for further revisions. It will likely result in another public review before final approval.
Unfortunately, this delay prolongs the absence of a national standard or guideline for preventing Legionnaires' disease. However, there's no need to wait for the release of the proposed ASHRAE Legionella standard to start protecting the health of building occupants from Legionella infections.
Taking a proactive approach is the key to minimizing the risk of Legionella in utility and building water distribution systems. This can be accomplished by applying simple and fundamental principles of effective water treatment followed by validation of effectiveness by periodic monitoring of disinfectants and Legionella.
Following are a few steps that can help keep building water safe and bring a facility a little closer to compliance with the upcoming standard:
- Know who is at risk in the building. Legionnaires' disease is caused when Legionella bacteria travels from water into a person's lungs through air (aerosolization) or by aspiration. Typical high-risk individuals include the elderly, smokers, and those with weakened immune systems.
- Convene a water safety team. Responding to Legionella in the water system requires a team effort. So why wait to identify the key members of the organization who will be responsible for water safety? Be sure to include a water treatment professional and consult experts in Legionella.
- Review and update the water safety plan. If a plan doesn't exist, it's important to get one now. Start with industry best practices.
- Evaluate the water distribution system. Is the equipment in good shape? Know what part of the water system could lead to exposure for Legionella infections. These include hot water, cooling towers, spas and decorative fountains.
- Verify that the disinfection strategy is working. Testing the water system is the best way to assess the risk of Legionella. Consult a water treatment professional if Legionella is found.
- Learn the fundamentals for Legionella water safety:
- Assess risk — Health care vs. non-health care.
- Establish baseline values — monitoring (chemical and biological).
- Establish monitoring schedule.
- Verify (document) effective water treatment/disinfection procedures.
- Periodic testing of water quality (chemical and biological).
- Establish action plans (hot water system & cooling towers).
Janet E. Stout, PhD, an infectious disease microbiologist, is director of Special Pathogens Laboratory (SPL) and is a member of the ASHRAE committee responsible for the proposed ASHRAE standard. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. SPL specializes in the detection, control and remediation of Legionella and other waterborne pathogens.
Garry R. Boehlert, Esq., is a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Saul Ewing, LLP. He is experienced in defending Legionnaires' disease claims and litigation. He can be reached at email@example.com.
For a more detailed discussion of the proposed ASHRAE standard and its expected legal significance, please see New ASHRAE Standard To Prevent Legionnaires' Disease on FacilitiesNet at: http://bit.ly/Legionella
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