An Introduction to Digitalising Legionella Risk Management with LegionellaDossier
Managing the risk of Legionella is a necessary but often time-consuming element of building management, particularly for large companies like universities and hospitals. However, new digital systems are changing the landscape of risk assessments. With Bluetooth temperature probes and Legionella software, users can now collect, organise and interpret data faster than ever before. And this makes it easier to focus on what really matters: managing the risk rather than simply completing the checks.
With over 15 years of experience in Legionella control, Nick Barsby has recently joined LegionellaDossier, a software company that combines our Bluetooth temperature probes with their digital water safety solutions. We interviewed Nick to learn why implementing software to digitise Legionella management is beneficial for businesses. This includes enabling in-house checks, reducing expenses on outsourced water maintenance, improving data accuracy and clarity, and enhancing the security of Legionella risk assessments.
What does it mean to make your risk assessment digital?
It’s an evolving process. If you’re using a Word template, your next step might be a digital platform. If you’ve got a digital platform, your next step might be Bluetooth Legionella thermometers and remote sensors. It’s a journey.
Legionella risk assessments can range from landlords who might just need a single sheet of paper assessment to show they’ve considered the risk, to complex hospitals who often have lots of assets and want to take a full assessment on a phone or tablet and not have to type it up again. It’s that whole journey from the quill and parchment right the way through to a fully digital system where you’re scanning barcodes or asset tags and tracking data using Bluetooth thermometers and remote sensors.
Now with LegionellaDossier software, rather than just saying there’s a bank of four sinks, you can put images in showing which sink is which, as well as tracking defects and recording asset-specific temperatures via ETI’s Thermapen Blue. That’s where digitising improves risk assessment and risk management. Again, it’s that evolution process.
Why should businesses switch to a digital system?
The bigger and more complex the premises, the more there’s a drive for digitisation. If you’ve got a university with 300-400 buildings, and they’re all paper risk assessments and records, it’s very difficult to track temperature trends and monitor what’s going on in real-time.
The challenge as we capture more data, especially on these bigger sites, is that we don’t drown in the data. If you’ve got thousands of assets to monitor a month and only 22 working days, that’s a lot to try and work out. It saves time to use a digital system.
A significant temperature change will lead to different opportunities for bacteria to grow. If the temperature rises from 5 °C to 19 °C for example, that 14 °C change might be enough to allow some Legionella to start growing or become more active than it was. Yet 19 °C is still compliant. If there’s a significant change in the conditions, it could lead to better growth for different pathogens, and the opportunity for Legionella growth will change.
What we need to do is get those digital systems to start doing the basic thinking for us. So if we’ve got a cold temperature that’s starting to climb up, your Excel spreadsheet will tell you it’s doing that, but you might not even notice it if it’s still under 20 °C. If you’ve got a digital platform, you can get it to do the trending for you.
It’s going from a mindset of compliance to wanting to understand changes in the data. If you had an outbreak and you end up in a court of law, the evidence and documents that show you’ve seen something and noted it would make the case very different than if the evidence showed you saw it was 19 °C and thought nothing of it because it was still compliant.
Can Bluetooth systems be used in-house?
Digital solutions make bringing Legionella control tasks in-house easy because it’s controlled for you. You don’t need to make spreadsheets or forms, you can buy the software and thermometers, and then you can clearly understand what your tasks are and how to do them confidently yourselves.
The software makes it easier to trust someone in-house to do those checks because you can see the data immediately. If a temperature check or flush is missed, you can set escalation points to notify someone else to do it after a couple of days so you can make sure it gets done and have visibility of the escalation too.
A water hygiene company might charge £200 a month for a couple of hours of work flushing taps and taking temperatures. If you carry out the checks in-house you can reinvest that £200 into controlling the risk of Legionella by, for example getting your TMVs serviced or tanks cleaned. It’s not about completely removing the cost, it’s about better allocating that budget to improve the control over the risk of Legionella.
How do Bluetooth risk assessments increase the accuracy of data?
The challenge is to make sure people understand that it isn’t about ticking a box to say you’ve taken the read: it’s about managing the risk.
You want to know that the information you’ve taken is valid. With Bluetooth Legionella thermometers, if you take the temperature of water from a tap for two minutes, you can see if the temperature was compliant from start to finish.
Using a system like LegionellaDossier, it also times the reading, date stamps when it was taken and records by whom; it’s a better source of data and a single source of truth. That makes it more challenging for readings to be taken improperly, because if they take all their readings from the same tap, they’ll all be very similar, and the times will all be too close together.
The further we go down the evolutionary path, the harder it is for readings to be falsified and the more confidence we can have in risk assessments and recording of control measures.
Is switching to a Bluetooth system difficult?
Whenever you start something new, it’s always a challenge. But the benefit for a compliance manager, business owner or estates manager is that it gives a greater depth to the evidence collected on site which in turn increases confidence in the data .
It’s a one-off Bluetooth temperature sensor cost and a monthly subscription to some software. I don’t bat an eyelid at paying £10 a month for Spotify because I want a cleaner and easier system. So what’s £10 a month to make sure I don’t kill anyone with Legionella? For me it’s reasonably practicable.
Improvement doesn’t come for free, but there’s a significant benefit. If you look at numerous court cases across the years where Legionella hasn’t been controlled, fines are in the millions of pounds. One company was fined £1.8 million. No one actually caught legionnaires’ disease, the HSE went in for a separate matter, asked to review the log books for their hot and cold water systems and they didn’t have any records. The risk was there and they failed to control it. What would you prefer, £10 a month or a £1.8 million fine?
And it’s about the speed of getting the data, too. If someone queries something, you don’t need two weeks to dig a box out and go through the archive to find one piece of paper. The time saving there is phenomenal. These are even more valuable in a time-critical incident like a spate or positive results or a potential outbreak.
Digitising Legionella risk management through the use of Bluetooth temperature probes and Legionella software brings numerous benefits to businesses. By transitioning from traditional paper-based assessments to digital systems, companies can improve the speed and accuracy of their checks and identify trends in the data.
Furthermore, Bluetooth systems offer increased confidence and accuracy of data by providing real-time temperature monitoring and time-stamped readings, making it harder to falsify information.
Although switching to a digital system may present initial challenges, the confidence in the data obtained and the potential to avoid costly fines and legal implications far outweigh the transition costs. Ultimately, embracing digital solutions streamlines processes, improves risk control, and saves valuable time and resources for businesses dealing with Legionella management.
Visit the LegionellaDossier website to learn more about how your business could transition to a digital risk assessment.