The recent outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease has shined a spotlight on the issue for facility managers.
As an FM, you may be tempted to write off the disease as a public health concern, outside of your domain and therefore not your responsibility or concern. However, such a viewpoint is not only shortsighted, but it's also patently false.
In fact, facility managers have a vested interest in preventing and combating the spread of the disease-carrying legionella bacterium, as an outbreak can bring with it financial, social and regulation-oriented implications.
The cost of negligence
Despite the fact that outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease are very rarely fatal and recovery is typically swift and complete, it's still an incredibly expensive disease for such a little bacterium. A report from AMI Environmental indicated that Legionnaires' disease on its own accounts for roughly $100 million to $300 million in healthcare costs in the U.S. annually, with an average of around $34,000 spent on each case.
More directly concerning is the money lost indirectly in business disruptions as a result of an outbreak, as well as the maintenance costs associated with repairing or replacing contaminated equipment.
The containment, control and prevention of Legionnaire's disease is so important to the facility management industry that there is currently an industry standard in place governing it. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc. published ASHRAE Standard 188P to establish operational guidelines for facilities to follow in order to safeguard against bacterial outbreaks.
This standard requires any building meeting any one of a list of factors - such as being over a certain size or occupancy, housing residents over 65 years of age, or having any water features installed - to devise and implement a hazard analysis critical control points water plan. These HACCP plans are designed to assess water hazard levels and respond accordingly with a predetermined control measure to limit the spread of contamination.
ASHRAE's official website indicated that the organization is currently reviewing and revising Standard 188P, changing and upgrading it to better fit with industry demands, and beefing it up with additional practical methods for controlling any instances of legionella bacteria that may be found. The liberal requirements set forth in Standard 188P regarding which facilities are required to adhere to its measures are such that virtually any building with running water is to comply with the directive if ASHRAE standards are to be met.