The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has published ASHRAE Standard 188-2015, an industry guideline for Legionellosis risk management, to protect public health by controlling Legionella bacteria in building water systems.
Low levels of Legionella bacteria are present in nearly all bodies of water and can cause Legionellosis (Legionnaire’s Disease), a serious and sometimes fatal form of pneumonia. The illness is spread through fine water particles, like mist dispersed by hot tubs and fountains. The disease is not spread person-to-person. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 8,000 to 18,000 people in the United States are hospitalized each year from the disease. Most recently, a deadly outbreak occurred in New York, and a factory was shut down briefly in North Carolina after Legionella bacteria were found in its cooling towers.
What is ASHRAE Standard 188-2015?
The standard is an industry guideline establishing minimum Legionellosis risk management requirements for building water systems such as cooling towers, evaporators, fountains, and hot tubs. It provides an outline for Legionella control measures and gives building owners leeway in choosing a compliant water treatment program.
The standard requires that affected facility owners/managers implement and document an effective, written water treatment program with Legionella control measures that comply with the stated guidelines.
Does the standard include a list of required treatment methods?
No, the standard offers only a framework for Legionella risk management and leaves specific water treatment measures to the discretion of your water program team. This flexibility is intentional and recognizes that there is great variation among individual buildings and water systems, and that no single solution is ideal for every application. Regardless of your chosen treatment method, ongoing control measures and active testing are part of any effective program.
Are there penalties for non-compliance with the standard?
According to OSHA, organizations are legally required to protect occupants from known dangers, and Legionella may be considered a known hazard. Although the Standard 188-2015 is not a law, organizations may be found negligent in court if testing demonstrates a failure to comply with the published guidelines.
Earlier this month, New York City Council adopted legislation requiring adherence to part of the Legionella standard, and other cities, counties and state agencies may follow suit.
In our next blog, learn more about the buildings and facilities impacted by the standard. Then, read the final entry to find out how to comply with the standard. You’re also invited to visit our Legionella Risk Management Solutions page for information on water treatment products that may enable ASHRAE 188 compliance in your facility.