One of the most common questions I get asked is why should we test for Legionella if we’re not required to?
This question always makes me take a deep breath, compose myself, and prepare for a conversation that centers around finances/budgets, risk prevention, and lots of education.
At a high level, there are two reasons:
1) Testing validates your water management plan and demonstrates Legionella is actually being controlled.
2) Testing is the only way to determine if your facility is at risk.
You and your team go through the process of putting policies and procedures in place, but how do you know if they are working? Testing is the best way to validate the effectiveness of a water management plan. ASHRAE also calls out the need for verification and validation of the program. It doesn’t make sense to keep spending time and effort completing a task if it's ineffective.
The best way to prevent Legionella pneumonia in your building is to make sure people do not come in contact with the bacteria that causes said pneumonia. The only way to determine the presence of the bacteria is to test for it. But Mr. LegionellaFella what if I find it!? Finding it is ok...it's actually a good thing! That means you were able to identify a potential problem before it was able to cause harm and you can do something about it!
Ok so what if I don’t do anything? Well if you don’t do anything, then the only way to know if you have Legionella in your water system is to wait and see if someone gets sick. It’s really hard to talk about this approach because we are talking about people getting sick with a form of pneumonia that could cause many problems for the individual - especially if they are immunocompromised. This approach can adversely impact reputation as well as the bottom line of an organization if they have a case or outbreak.
So what do I do? I don’t have an endless budget for testing, Fella? I as well as the leaders in combating Legionella, highly encourage organizations to reach out to their Legionella consultant to help establish a testing protocol that is effective and works within budgetary constraints. At the end of the day, doing something is better than doing nothing and will contribute to keeping building occupants safe and healthy.
Jack Murphy: The Legionella Fella: ASSE 12080 Certified Legionella Specialist. CRO for @iwcinnovations Inspired to help keep building water systems clean and free of Legionella
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