What is Legionella?

Legionella is a bacterium which can cause pneumonia like symptoms. It is commonly found in natural water systems e.g. rivers and ponds, although the conditions are rarely right to people to catch the disease from these sources.

Outbreaks of the illness occur from exposure to legionella growing in purpose-built systems where water is maintained at a temperature usually between 20-45°C. They are killed by high temperatures at 60°C or above.

Domestic hot and cold-water systems can provide an environment where legionella bacteria can grow.

How do people get it?

People contract Legionnaires’ disease by inhaling small droplets of water (aerosols), suspended in the air, containing the bacteria.

Who is at risk?

Everyone is susceptible to infection however some people are at higher risk including:

  • People over 45 years of age
  • Smokers and heaving drinkers
  • People suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease
  • Anyone with an impaired immune system.

This page gives you important information about what to do if you experience a problem with your water system and what you can do to keep safe. We also highlight our responsibilities for water safety to you.

Top tips for water safety in the home

Because we are committed to protecting the welfare of our tenants and employees, the following guidance will help you prevent Legionella occurring in your home.

  • When you first move into your home, run the bath and hand basin taps continuously for at least five minutes. This will flush through any bacteria.
  • If your shower has not been used for a week or more, run water from both hot and cold supplies through the shower hose and showerhead for two minutes. To ensure no spray escapes from the showerhead, run it into a bucket of water or full bath.
  • If your shower has not been used for two weeks or more, we would recommend you disinfect the showerhead. The showerhead should be removed, and the shower run for two minutes. The showerhead should be disinfected before being re-fitted by immersing for at least an hour in any solution designed for cleaning baby feeding bottles (e.g. Milton). Showerheads should be regularly disinfected about four times a year.
  • If your property has been empty for a while (e.g. after a holiday), flush the whole water system for five minutes. First flush your toilet, then let the kitchen taps and the hand basin taps run for five minutes or more to let both hot and cold-water pass through. Next, flush the shower through as described above. Finally, run other taps.
  • Report any deposits such as rust or any unusual matter flowing from your water outlets
  • Allow contractors access to your home to carry out test on your water when required

Carrying out these simple precautions will help reduce the risk of bacterial build up in your hot and cold-water systems.

Top tips for water safety in the garden

Legionella risk assessments tend to focus on the indoor water supply in a property, since that is where the majority of the water outlets are to be found, but it’s worth bearing in mind that there are risks in the garden too.

  • Always put away your garden hose away after use, storing it out of direct sunlight. By coiling it up it will expel most of the water before you store it
  • If you are using any kind of spray action – whether it is a sprinkler for the lawn or a rose attachment on the hose first flush your hosepipe at a distance. By putting the hose in the corner of the garden or away from people and turning the tap on full for a couple of minutes, you will expel any bacteria without breathing it in.
  • If you use a hosepipe regularly, consider disinfecting it from time to time to eliminate bacteria.
  • it is best not to use water from garden water butts when the temperature inside the butt is likely to rise above 20oC. Even if the temperature is lower, it is best to only use it with a watering can and not via a hosepipe or sprinkler which significantly increases the chances of spores being released into the atmosphere.
  • It is also a good idea to clean water butts every year and insulate them to keep the water as cool as possible.

What should I do if I find something unusual with the water system in my home?

  • Call Onward Homes on 0300 555 0600 and seek guidance
  • Do not use, or allow anyone else to use the water until it has been checked by a professional
  • An inspection record containing details of any defect identified and remedial action needed will be submitted to Onward Homes. We will ensure that any safety defect identified is rectified before the water is used again.

Our responsibility for water safety to our customers

  • Carry out risk assessments in properties with communal areas every 2 years and if circumstances change such as alterations to the water system
  • Carry out works identified from the risk assessment
  • Remove risks where we can, by programmed improvements to water systems
  • Chlorinate the communal water systems in line with the risk assessments for the building
  • Carry out repair and maintenance work to maintain safe temperatures in water systems and communal systems
  • We are not responsible for equipment that you have bought for yourself such as a hot tub
  • In accordance with your tenancy agreement, you must allow us access to carry out checks to ensure your safety. If reasonable access is not provided, it will be necessary for us to take action.

Help us to keep you safe.

  • We will contact to you if an inspection or chlorination is due
  • Please allow our engineers into your home to carry out your inspection/chlorination
  • Always keep your appointments with our contractors.

For any questions about safety in your home, or to find out when your inspection is due, call us on 0300 555 0600.