08 December 2017

NSW Health is reminding building owners that a new regulation requiring monthly tests to be conducted on cooling towers will come into effect next month.

From 1 January 2018, building owners will be required to test for Legionnaires’ bacteria on a monthly basis and report high results of the bug to local councils.

Dr Ben Scalley, Director Environmental Health Branch NSW Health, said building owners are being urged to complete their first monthly test by 1 February 2018.

“NSW Health has strengthened the Public Health Regulation to protect the community from the risk of Legionnaires’ disease,” Dr Scalley said.
 

“So far this year there have been 78 cases of Legionella pneumophila, which can be caused by exposure to contaminated water from cooling towers. In 2016 there were 93 cases.

Legionnaires’ disease most often affects middle-aged and older people whose immune systems are suppressed but anyone can be at risk from this potentially harmful bug.”egionnaires’ disease most often affects middle-aged and older people whose immune systems are suppressed but anyone can be at risk from this potentially harmful bug.”

 

Building occupiers already have to comply with the Australian Standards for maintaining cooling towers which require regular inspections and cleaning. While many occupiers already test their cooling towers on a monthly basis, monthly testing is not mandatory under the Australian Standards. The new Regulation will require everyone to undertake monthly tests. The changes to the Regulation follow consultation with stakeholders and recommendations from a Legionella Expert Panel.

 
Additional amendments to the Regulation are expected in early 2018, requiring building owners to:
  • Develop Risk Management Plans (RMP) at least once every five years or once every year for high risk water-cooling systems
  • Ensure independent auditing is conducted every year
  • Complete a Certificate of RMP and audit and lodge them with their local council
  • Display unique identification numbers on every cooling tower.
 
Dr Scalley said further guidance on managing water-cooling systems to reduce the risk of Legionnaires’ disease is currently being finalised.
 
“By making it compulsory for building owners to conduct monthly tests and yearly audits, which must be reported to local government, we aim to help prevent Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks across NSW,” Dr Scalley said.
 
For more information about the management of water cooling systems contact your local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055 or visit the NSW Health website.
 
For more information on Legionnaires’ disease, see the NSW Health fact sheet.