HSE action brings spotlight on offshore health and hygieneLegislation and Procedures // May 28, 2010
Inspections by the Health and Safety Executive identified a lack of control of Legionella bacteria in hot and cold water supplies offshore.
Consultant microbiologist Dr Carole Devine, an expert in health and hygiene at offshore specialist Intertek Commercial Microbiology, says operators and rig owners must factor monitoring and treatment of potable water supplies to ensure the safety of staff and contractors.
Legionella can be found in water in any situation, and it is not unusual for "positive" samples to be returned – with Legionella management and risk assessments needed to prevent the bacteria from thriving in water systems.
Owners, operators and managers are legally required to appoint someone responsible for managing the issues, and to ensure that risk assessments are carried out to inform a scheme of prevention or minimisation and that reviews take place regularly.
"Microbiological risks such as Legionella are a major issue for the offshore industry, as supplies are first transported from land to installations such as those in the North Sea, before being used," says Dr Devine.
"Legionella has the potential to seriously compromise hygiene and the health of staff working offshore, in much the same way as occurred at public facilities such as swimming pools and whirlpool baths, which have been the focus of issues in the past.
"Water might be safe at the source, but as soon as you store and transport any volume of water, by way of tank or through a pipe network it is open to contamination and/or influence from microbiological organisms, which can lead to issues such as Legionella.
"You have to ensure that your system is inhospitable to Legionella – and therefore safe for consumption and use, particularly with facilities such as showers and sprinkler systems."
Microbiological mitigation systems can deal with other pathogenic risks such as E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter and Cryptosporidium.
Intertek Commercial Microbiology works across the energy industry worldwide both on and offshore and also provides health and hygiene systems to leisure and other business sectors.