​Cooling water systems must be managed safely in order to prevent the growth and transmission of Legionella bacteria. NSW Health regulates cooling water systems in NSW, together with local government authorities.

Last updated: 01 September 2022

How does NSW Health regulate cooling water systems?

Health Protection NSW and Public Health Units are the two parts of NSW Health responsible for regulating cooling water systems.

Health Protection NSW is the central office and there is a network of 12 Public Health Units across metropolitan and regional NSW.

Health Protection NSW develops the regulation and policies for managing cooling water systems, while Public Health Units monitor and investigate cases and outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease in their areas.

What is the role of Public Health Units?

Public Health Units are responsible for:

  • investigating possible exposures of Legionnaires’ disease cases.
  • investigating outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease, with assistance from local government authorities.
  • providing support and advice to stakeholders, including local government authorities.
  • appointing authorised officers to support enforcement activities and outbreak investigation.
  • assisting in the application and enforcement of the Public Health Regulation 2022 (the Regulation).

What is the role of Health Protection NSW?

Health Protection NSW is responsible for:

  • developing the legislation for the management of cooling water systems.
  • developing guidelines, approved forms and protocols to support stakeholders in carrying out their roles.
  • approving and maintaining a list of independent auditors.
  • coordinating investigations of large or multi-jurisdictional Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks, or when the capacity of individual Public Health Units to respond is exceeded.
  • supporting Public Health Units through ongoing advice and training.

How does NSW Health investigate cases and outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease?

All cases of Legionnaires’ disease must be notified to NSW Health.

Public Health Units interview cases to identify and investigate potential exposures. If more than one case reports a common exposure, the Public Health Unit may initiate an outbreak investigation.

Outbreak investigations involve:

  • interviewing cases about all possible exposures.
  • mapping the movements of cases during the period when they were potentially exposed.
  • an urgent environmental investigation, which aims to locate possible sources of aerosols containing Legionella (such as cooling towers) in the area where the Legionnaires’ disease cases were potentially exposed.

Environmental investigations involve:

  • reviewing registers of cooling water systems kept by the local government authority.
  • urgently inspecting and testing cooling water systems for Legionella counts and heterotrophic colony counts.
  • issuing improvement notices, prohibition orders or penalty notices to occupiers of premises where non-compliant cooling water systems are installed.

Further information is provided in the NSW Health Legionnaires’ disease control guideline for Public Health Units.

What other systems does NSW Health regulate?

NSW Health regulates 5 types of systems which are termed 'regulated systems'. These include air-handling systems, hot water systems, humidifying systems, warm-water systems, and cooling water systems.

If these systems are not managed appropriately, this can lead to the growth and transmission of Legionella bacteria.

What guidance and training is available?

The NSW Guidelines for Legionella Control in Cooling Water Systems explain the new requirements in detail, including the role of NSW Health.

This series of factsheets summarises the key information for each stakeholder. The full set of factsheets can be found on the NSW Health website.

NSW Health has developed the Legionella Control in Cooling Water Systems training program together with TAFE NSW.

For more information

Current as at: Thursday 1 September 2022
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW