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Pseudomonas the new BS 8580-2: Risk assessments in healthcare

Royal Society of Public Health Webinar: 23 June 2021

Speakers: Dr Susanne Lee, Consultant Clinical Scientist, Royal Society for Public Health representative on PWTAG Council and Director, Leegionella Ltd (bio)

Chair: Victoria McKee, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

Dr Lee: "Covid-19 has brought many challenges to maintaining water quality in pools, associated equipment and associated building water systems and it is likely we are going to have to adapt, on an ongoing basis, to managing these challenges. The concept of Water Safety Plans (WSP), as advocated by WHO, to effectively manage all types of water systems with the built environment is becoming accepted as best practice and in 2020 BSI published BS 8680:2020 to aid the development and implementation of effective WSPs for all types of constructed water systems , including leisure complexes with pools, to ensure all relevant hazards, associated with water, which could result in a risk of harm to health are identified, and managed to minimise risk. Its scope covers all types of water systems from the concept stage of a new project through the design, specification, build and installation, commissioning stages to normal operation.

"A key component of the WSP is the risk assessment stage, stagnation occurring in systems which have little or no use increases the risk of pathogens, , growing to harmful levels. All too often risk assessments do not adequately consider the risks from autochthonous microbial hazards such as Legionella and P. aeruginosa. To address this a new Standard “BS 8580 Risk assessments for P.aeruginosa and other waterborne pathogens” is being developed to assist with and improve public health risk assessments. The presentation will demonstrate how WSPs can help to manage the risks from waterborne infection, including during the current situation."

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is the most dangerous of waterborne pathogens, it can easily acquire and transfer antibiotic resistance, causing illness which can be difficult to treat in the most susceptible patients in healthcare and is a leading cause of death. The outbreak of Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections in 2012 from contaminated water in a neonatal unit resulted in the deaths of three babies and highlights just how dangerous this bug can be if systems are not designed and managed effectively.

Safe management plans depend on effective risk assessments: it is not just a case of checking engineering controls are in place but needs a team approach with clinical and engineering input that also takes into account the behaviour of users and those managing systems and any associated equipment.


Pseudomonas aeruginosa can grow not just in water but also anywhere where there are damp conditions; it is tolerant of a wide range of physical conditions, including temperature and biocides and is universally regarded as a leading cause of waterborne infections in immunocompromised patients in the hospital environment.  Its ability to be transmitted from person to person as well as from colonised water systems, equipment, drains and even damp cloths etc. means that an effective risk assessment is essential to ensure the risk to these patients is minimised and effective controls put in place.  

This webinar series is supported by an educational grant from Pall Corporation.

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