Role of the responsible person for legionella control

Taking on the Role of the Responsible Person for Legionella Control

If you work in an organisation which has any type of water system, including hot and cold water systems, showers, spa pools, air conditioning units or cooling towers, then there should be someone in your company who is designated as the responsible person for legionella control. This role can be an onerous one depending on the size and complexity of the buildings and water systems at your place of work. The role typically involves assessing the risks and putting in to place procedures and systems for the control of Legionella bacteria, the microorganism which can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially fatal lung infection.

I’ve been asked to be the responsible person for legionella control

Is being given the role of the responsible person an honour, a chore or a bit of both? Although it’s always nice to be asked to take on extra responsibility at work, you really need to understand what the role of the legionella responsible person involves before agreeing to take it on.

What guides & procedures are available to help the responsible person do their job?

In the UK the regulator for the safety and health of people in the workplace is the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). They have a comprehensive set of guidelines covering everything connected with the control of legionella and Legionnaires’ disease in the workplace. Their Approved Code of Practice document, known as the ACOP L8 together with their supporting guidance HSG274 are considered the “bible” of procedures and guidance when it comes to matters involving the control of legionella for employers in order to protect their staff, and landlords to protect their tenants.

What does the HSE’s ACOP L8 say about the role?

One of the key requirements in the ACOP L8 is that the person in charge of the organisation (and with responsibility for legionella matters), referred to as the duty holder should “specifically appoint a competent person or persons to take day-to-day responsibility for controlling any identified risks from Legionella bacteria, known as the “responsible person”. This means that everyone in the business should be clear about who holds the responsibility for legionella control, and that the title of “responsible person” can be shared among two or more people depending on the needs of the business.

The ACOP L8 then goes on to lay out the type of people who can take on the role of the legionella responsible person, saying that they need to have authority, knowledge and competence about the business and the potential risks from Legionella bacteria. They must be able to make sure that the controls and processes they put into place are suitable to manage the risks effectively and that they are carried out properly and monitored to ensure that they remain effective.

The HSE also require that anyone who takes on the role of responsible person should be properly trained and take regular legionella refresher courses to keep their knowledge current.

Finally, whoever is designated as the responsible person has to have a clear understanding of how their role and responsibilities fits in to the organisation’s overall health and safety policy.

The role of the responsible person in more detail

Let’s take a look at these key issues one by one.


  • They must have sufficient authority, competence & knowledge

    The first important legal requirement for employers is that the legionella responsible person must have “sufficient authority, competence and knowledge of the installations to ensure that all operational procedures are carried out effectively and in a timely way”.

    What does this mean? In effect, it means that the responsible person has to be far enough up the pecking order in the organisation that they have the authority to take positive steps which might include emergency actions such as stopping production or halting manufacturing if they suspect a legionella risk. They also need to have budgetary control and a good understanding of what water systems are in use in the business. Usually, the responsible person is one of the senior management team.

  • Responsible person training

    Secondly, the HSE requires that the responsible person “should be suitably informed, instructed and trained … and receive regular refresher training”. These criteria ensure that training is seen as an on-going event, rather than something which is done once, and forgotten. There are organisations like WTS providing specialist legionella training for people who have taken on the role of the responsible person. WTS also provide regular refresher and update training to provide on-going support for the role.

  • Thorough understanding of their role in controlling legionella risk

    Finally, the Health & Safety Executive’s Approved Code of Practice L8 says that any responsible person for the control of legionella “should have a clear understanding of their role and the overall health and safety management structure and policy in the organisation”. In practice, this means that the responsible person must be formally appointed by letter, and should have all of their responsibilities clearly stated in writing.

The importance of the legionella responsible person role

The responsible person is the key component in any company’s legionella risk management and control process. Everyone who is designated as a responsible person should be competent to do their job properly. They must have a good understanding of the risks posed by Legionella bacteria in water systems, Legionnaires’ disease, the risks to people, as well as what needs to be done to control those risks in their workplace. Initial legionella training and ongoing refresher training is also an essential element in this process.

Legionella control specialists

Water Treatment Services offer a comprehensive range of legionella control and environmental solutions for the control of Legionella bacteria including legionella risk assessment, training and water testing for the control of legionella, pseudomonas and other waterborne pathogens in the workplace.

With offices in London serving the South and South East England, Manchester (North West), Birmingham (Midlands), Bristol (South East England and Wales), Leeds (North and North East) and Glasgow (Scotland), supported by regional teams of specially trained engineers, in-field water treatment service specialists and technicians we can offer cost effective legionella risk management, ACOP L8 compliance and engineering support services throughout the UK and Ireland.

Further reading…

More information about what you must do as an employer to control the risks from legionella … here →

Role of the Responsible Person for Legionella Control
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Role of the Responsible Person for Legionella Control
Learn more about the role of the Responsible Person for legionella control. The UK's Health & Safety Executive inn their ACOP L8 require the Duty Holder to appoint a legionella Responsible Person. They must have sufficient authority, competence & knowledge to fulfill their role.
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Water Treatment Services
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