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What is ACOP L8 and What Happens If You’re Not Compliant?

13 March 2023

What is ACOP L8?

ACOP L8 is an acronym that stands for Approved Code of Practice for Legionnaires’ disease.  It is a lengthy and complex guide detailing all of the recommended water hygiene practical measures you should carry out to remain compliant with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

We understand that wading through the ins and outs of the full ACOP L8 document is a daunting process, but these guidelines on how to assess your premises for legionella and the steps you should take to limit the risk, have been put into place for the safety of the people using your premises. 

In this article, we’ll explore what can happen if your business practices are not compliant with ACOP L8 guidelines, as well as delve into how best to remain compliant with water hygiene regulations. 

What happens if you’re not ACOP L8 compliant?

It’s important to remember that ACOP L8 is a guide, and isn’t enforceable by law. However, HSE’s guidance is, and failing to follow ACOP L8 can have some pretty serious ramifications.

Here are the 4 key consequences you could face if your business is found to be neglecting its water hygiene responsibilities: 


Legionella outbreak 

First and foremost, ignoring ACOP L8 guidelines can result in a legionella outbreak, which poses a significant risk to you and the people using your premises.

Legionella pneumophila bacteria can cause a potentially fatal lung infection, better known as Legionnaires’ disease, which has a startling 10% mortality rate. 

There’s no reason to put the people living and/or working in your building at risk. If you’re not sure whether you’re compliant, book in a bespoke risk assessment with H2O today.  


HSE investigation 

In the event of a legionella outbreak, you may then be investigated by HSE. 

However, it’s also important to note that a legionella outbreak doesn’t need to occur to trigger an audit. 

A routine audit can be scheduled for several reasons, including asbestos checks, an incident on-site, fire risk assessments or through random inspections, such as OFSTED. This is often how water hygiene risk is identified.

For this reason, it would benefit your business to view your water hygiene as an ongoing project, one designed to ensure that you and your staff, students or residents are always protected from legionella. Regular risk assessments and remedial work (when necessary) is the best way to avoid any legal ramification. 


Health and safety fines

Found to be in breach of HSE’s water hygiene guidance? You could then be subject to potentially unlimited fines. 

The severity of the fine you receive would depend on the knowledge and management of your water systems before the legionella audit takes place. 

For example, if your site has recently received a risk assessment, one that highlights areas of concern and potential contamination, and you have not carried out the necessary remedial work to keep your water systems safe from legionella, then you are likely to be immediately penalised. 

Similarly, If HSE guidelines are continuously ignored, or if you fail to organise a risk assessment, the person responsible for managing your water systems may face a significant personal fine. 


Business reputation 

In addition to risking the health of your staff and facing potential fines from HSE, the consequences can also extend to your business’ reputation. Regardless of how successful or established you are, even a small Legionnaires’ disease outbreak could significantly tarnish your reputation. 

If you become known for neglecting your water hygiene responsibilities, your customers or tenants won’t trust the services you provide.


How to make sure you remain ACOP L8 compliant

While the consequences of failing to practise ACOP L8 compliance are severe, the good news is that it’s fairly easy to ensure that you are compliant. 

Here are 4 main ways to ensure your business remains compliant: 


Partner with a water hygiene provider 

We understand that handling a business’ water hygiene is a lot to handle, especially if you’re a designated responsible person. Unless you have a firm understanding of your water system, it’s difficult to know exactly what needs to be done. 

That’s why it’s always wise to partner with a water hygiene provider who will be able to offer regular expert maintenance and ongoing support. 


Have regular risk assessments

One of the best ways to remain ACOP L8 compliant is to have regular reviews of your risk assessment/s, reviewing your assessment annually or whenever a significant change happens on the premises, for example, if there is an extension or a change in ownership, etc.).


Carry out the necessary remedial work 

Risk assessments on their own are not enough to ensure ACOP L8 compliance. Once the issues and areas of possible risk are highlighted, you need to form a plan of action and take all the necessary measures to ensure your water systems are safe. 


Don’t put your head in the sand!

Ignoring any issues won’t make them go away, and when it comes to legionella, can actually make it worse. 

Make your water hygiene responsibilities a priority, this way any issues you may have in your water system(s) won’t get out of hand, and you can carry on doing what you do best, running your business!


Risk assessments and on-going ACOP L8 support from H2O Hygiene

At H2O Hygiene, it’s our passion to ensure that our clients remain ACOP L8 compliant, day in, day out. 

If you have any questions or would like to enquire about ACOP L8 support, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our professional and friendly team. 

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