New guidelines for managing cooling water systems were enacted last week.
NSW Health has strengthened the Public Health Regulation 2012 to prevent the transmission of Legionella bacteria.
Infection can lead to Legionnaires' disease, a serious and potentially life-threatening condition.
From August 10, 2018, building occupiers are required to ensure there are six key safeguards in place for their cooling water systems including:
1. Risk assessment of Legionella contamination, documented in a Risk Management Plan (RMP) – every five years (or more frequently if required)
2. Independent auditing of compliance with the RMP and Regulation – every year
3. Providing certificates of RMP completion and audit completion to the local government authority
4. Sampling and testing for Legionella and heterotrophic colony count – every month
5. Notifying reportable laboratory test results (Legionella count ≥1000 cfu/mL or heterotrophic colony count ≥5,000,000 cfu/mL) to the local government authority
6. Displaying unique identification numbers on all cooling towers.
The requirements for building occupiers to test for Legionella bacteria on a monthly basis and notify high ‘reportable test results’ to their local government authority commenced earlier this year on January 1, 2018.
HydroChem is one company that worked with the state Legionella Taskforce to develop the new laws.
The company's CEO, Nick Duncan said HydroChem staff are proud of their contribution and support the changes.
Hydrochem NSW manager, Les Szabo, said these new Legionella laws will have a significant effect on the industry.
“It means industry needs to prepare 6000 Risk Management Plans, which are required by law, to be completed by June 2019,” he said.
“For engineers, facility owners and managers, this means stricter diligence is required in maintaining cooling towers and there are considerable fines for breaching the regulations."
NSW Health has also released comprehensive Guidelines for practical guidance on the legal requirements. This document details the roles and responsibilities, explains the risk factors, runs through the RMP process and outlines reporting, response and administrative requirements.
The changes to the Regulation follow consultation with stakeholders and recommendations from a Legionella Expert Panel. The changes bring NSW in line with a number of other jurisdictions in Australia and internationally which follow or recommend a risk management approach.
Meanwhile, NSW Health is developing a training course on Legionella Control in Cooling Water Systems together with TAFE NSW.
The course provides an overview of the science relating to Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks, cooling water system management, and the roles, responsibilities, and requirements under the Public Health Regulation 2012.
Completion of this course is a requirement for approval to conduct audits of cooling water systems.
The training course is based on new and existing nationally-recognised units of competency, and is delivered over three modules.
Details on how to enrol will be available shortly on the NSW Health web site.