BUILDING HYGIENEemployers' legal responsibility

The legal responsibilities placed on today’s building owners, employers and managers are onerous in terms of providing a safe building air and water environment as well as protecting the health of all users within the establishment.

Water Storage Tanks, Air Conditioning Systems, Showers, Warm Spa Baths and Pools plus Drink Dispensers are all potential areas where Legionella bacteria may grow. The approved Code of Practice from the Health and Safety Commission “The Approved Prevention and Control of Legionellosis 1991 (including Legionnaires Disease)” states that failure to carry out assessment is a criminal offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974!

This in turn is backed up by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulation (COSHH) which makes employers responsible for providing employees with a safe environment.

The following extracts from current legislation illustrate the importance of professional maintenance of buildings.

”The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, lays down that employers of persons concerned with the premises owe the “common duty of care” both to employees and others who may use or visit the premises. Part 1 indicates that the condition of premises or any part of them shall be treated as a risk attributable to the manner of conducting an undertaking.

'The Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984 imposes a duty of care on an occupier of premises to prevent risk to others of injury, which includes any disease and impairment of physical or mental condition. The European Communities ‘Workplace Directive’ is implemented in the United Kingdom by the ‘Workplace’ (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. The Health and Safety Commission’s Approved Code of Practice and Guidance L24, HMSO 1992 states that new “Mechanical Ventilation Systems (including air condition systems) should be regularly and properly cleaned, tested and maintained to ensure that they are kept clean and free from anything which may contaminate the air’. This will apply to all existing workplaces from 1 January 1996. Additionally, provision for access space for maintenance of the ventilation systems is expected to be introduced in building control legislation and will need to be considered at the design stage”