Legionellosis in churches

16 December 2019

How to avoid hazards from legionella bacteria at your church.

Legionella sample

What is Legionellosis?

Legionellosis is a collective term for diseases caused by legionella bacteria, including the most serious Legionnaires’ disease. 
The risk of legionella bacteria in church buildings is usually very low but there are some instances that can cause the risk to increase. 

Your responsibilities as a church

If you are an employer, you have a responsibility to: 
  • Complete, record and revise (where necessary) a specific risk assessment to identify what precautions are needed 
  • Take action to eliminate hazardous substances altogether where this is possible 
  • Implement suitable precautions where exposure to hazardous substances cannot be eliminated 
  • Make sure that these precautions are taken and are properly maintained, with some needing to be examined and tested at specified intervals 
  • Provide information and training to any employees and volunteers on what they need to do.
Even if you are not an employer, but control non-domestic premises (i.e. a church or church hall), you will still have to manage any risk presented by legionella bacteria.

More about legionella in churches

Many churches will have a simple, domestic-type, hot and cold water system.  These can vary in size, scale and complexity.  In many cases, the risk will be low, particularly where:
  • daily water usage is inevitable and sufficient to turn over the entire system
  • cold water is directly from a wholesome mains supply (no stored water tanks)
  • hot water is fed from instantaneous heaters or low volume water heaters (supplying outlets at 50 °C)
  • the only outlets are toilets and wash hand basins (i.e. no showers). 
If this is the case, you may not need to take any further action.  
Our church guidance on legionellosis gives detailed advice, including actions you can take to help reduce the risk of legionella bacteria.