Although highly unlikely to be a problem, it’s good to be aware of Legionnaire’s disease if you’re responsible for a public event involving water effects. Read our short guide to understand the condition, how it is contracted, and what you can do to minimise the risk.

What is Legionnaire’s disease?

Legionnaire’s disease is a lung infection caused by bacteria called legionella, which can be present in water. People can get Legionnaire’s disease by breathing in droplets of water that are contaminated with the bacteria, so it’s a risk you’ll need to consider when organising an event involving water.

Legionnaire’s disease is rare (estimates suggest there are 200-250 cases per year in the UK), but its effects can be serious and even fatal. It is a type of pneumonia, and people with the condition may need hospital treatment, antibiotics, oxygen and other apparatus to help their breathing.

How can it be prevented?

world's biggest sprinkler - custom water feature designed for Innocent Drinks

As an event organiser, it’s your responsibility to understand how to prevent Legionnaire’s disease. You can minimise the risk of legionella contamination by following the Approved Code of Practice by the HSE (ACoP L8), which outlines your legal duties to take the appropriate precautions.

Part of your health and safety obligation is to conduct a risk assessment on the presence of legionella bacteria at your event, and of the chances of people contracting Legionnaire’s disease. You’ll need to identify any risks in the water system and take steps to minimise these.

Conducting a legionella risk assessment

Factors that make the presence of legionella more likely include:

  • Stagnant water that isn’t flowing, and that isn’t replaced regularly. (This gives bacteria the chance to multiply)
  • A water temperature between 20 and 45 degrees Celsius
  • The production of water droplets – for example, if your special effect involves creating a mist or spray.

You’ll also need to consider whether the people at your event are at a higher risk of contracting an infection – for example, if they are likely to have weaker immune systems, or are over 45.

Steps you can take to minimise risk

rain special effects during performance

There are several things you can do to reduce the risk of legionella bacteria in your water system. These include the following:

  • Keeping the temperature of your water under 20 degrees Celsius, which makes it harder for the legionella bacteria to breed
  • Using chemicals such as chlorine tablets to treat the water and kill bacteria
  • Keeping the water flowing through the system, and replacing it every few days.

If you are concerned about the risk of Legionnaire’s disease at your event, your best option is to appoint a professional company with a full understanding of health and safety regulations. At Entertainment Effects, we have a comprehensive Water Safety Plan that covers all our water-based special effects. All of our water features and special effects are checked to ensure that the risk of legionella in the water is minimal, and of course we also routinely carry out other safety checks on every aspect of the event.

If you would like to find out more information about Legionnaire’s disease, take a look at our water special effects, or contact us on 01707 269 566.