Updated: Nov 16, 2018
As the building infrastructures in the United States continue to age, Legionnaires’ Disease can no longer be viewed as just a senior living facility issue.
Legionnaires’ Disease can no longer be viewed as just a senior living facility issue. As the building infrastructures in the United States continue to age, building owners in all classifications of businesses will become inundated with the fight against keeping their water safe from Legionnaires’ Disease for employees and customers.
The United States is sure to follow the many countries of Europe that have stringent regulations for building owners in terms of fighting the legionella pneumophila bacteria. An environmental health surveillance program was launched in Europe all the way back in 2004 for the Athens Olympic Games. Among many other activities it contained a series of inspections for the prevention of Legionnaires’ disease in water supply systems, cooling towers and decorative fountains. Standardized reports were designed for the inspections and a scoring system was developed for qualitative assessment. Environmental health inspectors were trained to carry out consistent, standardized inspections and water sampling for Legionella. Guidelines for the prevention of Legionnaires’ Disease were published and distributed among the inspectors and facility owners.
A recent case in Canada caught our attention as an example of what will be coming our way here in the states. Seven cases of Legionnaires’ Disease are under investigation by the Fraser Health Authority. A local Walmart in British Columbia, chose to close voluntarily on Friday, September 7th, after legionella bacteria was identified in the store’s cooling towers. The store, which wasn’t identified as the source of the outbreak at that time, reopened after a day, but was responsive to Fraser Health’s recommendations to close its cooling towers, conduct deep cleans and remediation, and carry out continued testing.
How are you protecting your employees and clients?
Walmart’s action and business interruption losses truly highlight the value of environmental liability. What a lot of people don’t realize, according to Canadian environmental underwriter Miles Foxworth, is that mold and bacterium like legionella are considered environmental pollutants and are often excluded on general liability and property insurance policies. As cases like the recent British Columbia Legionnaires’ outbreak hit the headlines, more are becoming attuned to their potential environmental exposures. This is driving “significant growth” in the environmental insurance market in Canada, but there’s still more educational work to be done because environmental exposures are constantly changing. This Legionella threat has triggered a major uptick in Canada’s environmental liability claims.
Are you as a business owner protecting your employees and clients from potential environmental threats such as legionella pneumophila? What is your risk tolerance? Are you prepared to deal with costly lawsuits and company brand damage? Prevention is key. Make sure you are an advocate for your employees and clients in terms of keeping them protected from the dangers of Legionnaires’ Disease.