Are you aware of the new standards for facility managers to prevent Legionnaire’s Disease? ASHRAE Standard 188 establishes minimum legionellosis risk management requirements for building water systems. Building owners and facility managers are now responsible for implementing Water Management Plans that will keep building water systems free of Legionella contamination.
It was passed to protect building occupants from legionellosis. The standard aims to minimize occupant risk by outlining the minimum steps required to prevent Legionella contamination of building water systems.
Legionellosis refers to two illnesses: Legionnaire’s Disease and Pontiac Fever. Both illnesses are caused by exposure to Legionella bacteria and commonly lumped under the name “legionellosis”. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that between 8,000 and 10,000 people are infected with Legionnaires’ disease every year. But it’s likely that underreporting puts the number closer to 100,000. Legionnaires’ disease is a serious concern because more than 10 percent of cases are fatal. Pontiac Fever is a less-severe, flu-like illness that can also result from exposure to Legionella-contaminated water.
ASHRAE Standard 188 is “is intended for use by owners and managers of human-occupied buildings and those involved in the design, construction, installation, commissioning, operation, maintenance and service of centralized building water systems and components.”
Note that while the new standard affects various professions, building owners and facility managers will have final responsibility for building water system safety and meeting ASHRAE Standard 188 requirements.
The new standard applies to both new and existing buildings, and their associated water systems (potable and non-potable). Per the new standard, building owners and/or management must:
- Meet minimum legionellosis risk management requirements for building water systems (both potable and non-potable), as specified by the standard.
- Conduct a Building Survey to identify risk-factors for Legionella-contamination and occupant exposure.
- Appoint a team of staff to develop and implement a Water Management Program that meets risk management principles outlined in the Standard. While the Standard outlines necessary elements of a Water Management Program, it does not require use of any specific control strategies to meet risk management requirements.
Five high-risk water systems features are singled out, including: potable water systems, cooling towers and evaporative condensers; whirlpool spas; ornamental fountains and other water features; and aerosol-generating misters, atomizers, air washers and humidifiers. Very specific compliance requirements are outlined for these water system features because they present a greater risk for legionellosis. If your facility has any of these features, you will want to check out both Standard 188 and ASHRAE Guideline 12.
If you’re looking for the standard to provide a ready-to-go legionellosis risk management plan, you won’t find it. While the standard sets out requirements for risk management plans and offers general suggestions, it does not dictate exact steps or regulations that must be included in legionellosis risk management programs.
So, for example, the standard requires building owners and managers to control microbiological activity, scale and corrosion through water treatment methods. But the standard does not require that any specific water treatment methods that must be included in legionellosis risk management programs.
Instead, the standard is meant to provide a basis for building owners to work from, so they can develop Legionella control strategies and maintenance procedures that will be effective in their facilities. In other words, the standard tells you what requirements your plan must meet, but it doesn’t tell you how to meet those requirements.
We recommend working with a qualified janitorial and custodial cleaning services vendor to inspect and identify any possible areas of concern, and developing a strategy for future preventative measures.