Laws and instructions
Please note that all laws and instruction discussions here are based on the Norwegian laws and instructions. However, all laws and instructions on legionella, should they exist for a specific country, will be similar enough for the general concepts to carry over anywhere.
In Norway the most important source of information on legionella and how to monitor and control it comes from the National Institute of Public Health (Folkehelseinstituttet), who publish the Instructions on Legionella (last updated at the start of 2016, only available in Norwegian). The instruction includes general information on legionella and infection, some of the laws and rules that apply to Norway, and more specific information for different areas. The main point of the instruction is to give everyone who works on water systems some help and advice on monitoring and controlling legionella.
Based on the instructions Norsense has compiled a few simple recommendations.
The National Institute of Public Health have constructed three simple risk categories:
- High potential: Capable of spreading aerosols over a large area, or is part of an institution that houses immunocompromised patients.
- Limited potential: Capable of spreading aerosols over a limited area, or the risk of growth and spread is small.
- Low potential: Devices used by few people, or have an unlikely potential for growth.
Which one of these areas a specific water system, or building, comes in under in these simplified categories is easy to determine. Cooling towers, industrial air scrubbers, and similar, or hospitals, care homes, and similar facilities come under category 1. Everything else that is not a private home will come under category 2 since no one really knows how high the risk of growth and spread of legionella is.
To be able to say that a water system of building comes under category 3 the potential for legionella growth has to be determined first, which means testing for legionella is required. We recommend the following setup:
- Alternating 33% of outlets (water taps, showerheads, and similar) each month for one year using Hydrosense Direct Kit.
- In addition testing on especially exposed areas (water heaters, blind spots, etc.) every month for a year using Hydrosense Single Kit.
This will give a basis to set the correct risk category as part of a full risk assessment of the potential for legionella infections for a water system or building.
The reason why it is important to perform a risk assessment and test the water system for potential legionella infection is both to keep the general population healthy, but also because in most countries it is part of the law. In Norway this is covered by Forskrift om miljørettet helsevern (Regulation on environmental health protection), but is also covered in other laws and regulations relating to pools, workplace health and safety, and technical regulations on how to construct a building.
Within the Regulation on environmental health protection there is a full chapter (chapter 3 a) devoted specifically to legionella. The wording in this law (paraphrased through translation) says that businesses it encompasses shall be “planned, built, facilitated, and operated in a manner where the entire facility, all additional processes, and direct and indirect effects of these, gives satisfactory protection against the spread of legionella via aerosol.” The one who is in charge of the property is also responsible for ensuring that all points in the law are followed, and that routine checks for legionella are implemented and carried out.
Breaking this law will lead to sanctions. Most commonly an order to correct the deviation, ordered supervision, and closure of the facility should the danger become too great. In serious situations, fines and a jail time for up to 3 months could be the consequence.