Lockdown – the next steps

When we entered the first stages of lockdown, we were advised to abandon our workplaces and if possible work from home. This resulted in the majority of commercial properties and contract sites being unoccupied with no clear indication as to when they might re-open.

Insurers reacted by providing guidance on the measures necessary to protect and secure premises. For the most part, insurers waived the usual policy clauses that would have resulted in restrictions in policy cover as a result of unoccupancy. Whilst temporary, these waivers were extended through to 5th August, however, from this point on, normal policy terms and conditions apply.

We recognise that not all restrictions on businesses have been lifted and some businesses could be required by law to remain closed as a result of localised lockdowns.

Please contact us if:

  • You have had to temporarily close your business or site due to localised lockdown, or indeed any government regulations, for a period that is in excess of 30 days.
  • You have not already advised us if of changes you have made to your business or sites during lockdown period.
  • You have unfortunately had to cease trading.
  • You are a property owner and your tenants are no longer trading and/or it is known they will not return to the premises.

 

The temporary closure of buildings in an effort to contain coronavirus has unwittingly created conditions that enable another potentially lethal pathogen, in this case, a bacterium to thrive. This threat is legionella pneumophila, a common pathogen in many environments that flourishes in water pipes and cooling towers.

Legionnaires disease is a type of pneumonia caused by bacteria. It is usually transmitted by breathing-in mist or droplets from water containing the bacteria. The mist may come from hot tubs, showers, or air-conditioning units for large buildings.

What you need to do

Companies have an obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees, customers and suppliers. With Legionnaires disease, that means taking reasonable precautions to ensure that the water in a facility, wherever it appears, does not contain harmful levels of Legionella.

Employers should carry out a full risk assessment of their hot and cold water systems and ensure adequate measures are in place to control the risks.

The primary method used to control the risk from Legionella is water temperature control.

Water services should be operated at temperatures that prevent Legionella growth:

 

  • Hot water storage cylinders (calorifiers) should store water at 60°C or higher
  • Hot water should be distributed at 50°C or higher (thermostatic mixer valves need to be fitted as close as possible to outlets, where a scald risk is identified).
  • Cold water should be stored and distributed below 20°C.

 

A competent person should routinely check, inspect and clean the system, in accordance with the risk assessment.

Stagnant water aids Legionella growth. Where buildings were not entirely closed down during the lockdown, it may be safe to open if:

  • the water system was flushed out at least every three days
  • the water temperatures at the taps have been checked and reach at least 55°C (131°F)
  • microbiological tests performed during the lockdown showed no significant change in the total number of bacteria.

 

For buildings that were idle for at least seven days, and especially those where the water pipes and relevant water-reliant systems were turned off for more than a month, the water needs to be tested, and, as necessary, flushed and disinfected.

 

Note that all these provisions, testing, flushing, disinfecting, also apply to cooling towers, air conditioning systems and any other machinery or equipment with water reservoirs.

All things considered, preventing an outbreak of Legionnaires disease is far easier and less expensive for businesses to undertake than preventing the spread of coronavirus. Testing for Legionella and, if necessary, flushing out or disinfecting building water should be a fundamental part of all plans for resuming operations.

By Samantha Geddes Cert CII Commercial Account Handler

 

 

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