20 July 2013 | Commentary

The risk of infection from Legionella and other waterborne pathogens to building occupants can increase during construction and maintenance of water systems in complex buildings, especially in healthcare facilities. There are steps you can take during the planning, design, construction, and commissioning phases of construction and renovation work to minimize the risk.

Recommendations to minimize risk of Legionella and other waterborne pathogens during construction:

Phase 1. Planning

Complete the Facilities Guidelines Institute's Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA) to identify the type of construction or renovations and what building occupants will be impacted. Use a matrix approach to establish the class of precautions to be followed during design, construction, and commissioning; be sure it provides consideration for water system construction activities.

Phase 2. Design 

Regardless of the scope, consider the impact construction could have on water quality and how it could affect the growth of Legionella and waterborne pathogens in your water system.

Phase 3. Construction

Provide oversight during construction to ensure that the work is being completed per the design and that ICRA recommendations are implemented to minimize the spread of Legionella and waterborne pathogens.

Phase 4. Commissioning

For minor plumbing work, commissioning can include checking for leaks and flushing a fixture; however for widespread water service interruptions or new work, commissioning should include disinfection, flow and temperature checks, sampling and culture for waterborne pathogens, including Legionella, and continual movement of water until the building is occupied.