Head Teachers Role in Controlling Legionella in Schools
Author: Craig Morning, Senior Consultant, Water Hygiene Centre Ltd
If you are a Head Teacher what are your responsibilities in relation to preventing or controlling Legionella in your school?
To answer this question, it might be easier to split these into two categories, the first would be where the Head Teacher has full control over the management of water and the second where other bodies, for example a local council, have a significant say in maintenance activities. In this blog we will try to give you some tips that will allow you to take the appropriate steps based on the situation that you are in.
So, you’re the Head Teacher with full control over managing water, first off, I’m sure you are more than likely to be aware that you are going to be responsible for overall health & safety, whether you are classed as the Duty Holder or the Responsible Person. This will include water safety and therefore it would be important for you to understand what you need to do. Under the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act and COSHH, the minimum expectation is that a suitable and sufficient Legionella risk assessment is carried out which assesses the risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria from work activities and identifies the precautionary measures needed. As the Duty Holder or perhaps the Responsible Person you should make reasonable enquiries to ensure that the assessor is competent and suitably trained and has the necessary equipment to carry out their duties safely and adequately. This does not mean that the work could not be carried out by anyone employed by the school but the ability to prove competence would fall to you, rather than the contractor, to provide.
So now you have the findings of the Legionella risk assessment the real work for you and your team starts. There will be one-off works required from the assessment to reduce the risk, some of these will be physical changes to the water systems whilst others will be changes to policies or procedures or the need for members of the team to attend Legionella training. On top of these there will be the precautionary measures that have been recommended, these pre-planned maintenance tasks should be carried out at the correct frequency by suitably competent people.
To find out more about these please see our recent blog Legionella in Schools: key points for good water management
If, however you are the Head Teacher of a school where water is managed by an external team then it won’t be as easy to confirm what you need to do. We work with some local authorities where the Head Teachers are involved in the process with the support of a central maintenance / estates team managing works completed by a contractor. In this instance the appointment of a contractor would be completed for the local authority as a whole and it is unlikely that you will be named as the Responsible Person for the school. It may be that your responsibilities lie with the management of the janitor / caretaker at the school and making sure that they are doing their job and completing the pre-planned maintenance tasks.
On the other hand, we work with others where the Head Teachers are not involved at all, all works are managed by the central maintenance / estates team. If you are in doubt, then you should start by asking the central maintenance / estates team.