Health Advisory - Legionnaires' Disease

Are your workers at risk for Legionnaires' Disease from your water systems, blow-down activities, eye wash or safety showers? OSHA has investigated recent outbreaks of Legionnaires' Disease in plastic injection molding facilities in Cincinnati, Ohio and Baltimore, Maryland. One worker died and several were hospitalized due to this disease.

Legionnaires' Disease is a potentially fatal respiratory infection commonly discovered with pneumonia. This bacterial disease is generally associated with untreated poorly maintained water- based systems and water-based aerosols. Legionnaires' has not been shown to be a communicable disease, but is of an environmental origin. Consequently, it affects those who are directly exposed to a contaminated aerosolized water source and further contamination to others is minimized. Although OSHA currently has no specific Standard or Directives for Legionnaires' disease, on December 9, 1998, they published a Hazard Information Bulletin - Legionnaires' Disease Risk for Workers in the Plastic Injection Molding Industry. Additionally, OSHA has issued violations for gross contamination in poorly maintained water systems, in the General Duty Clause Section 5(a)(1). Read more about Legionnaires' Disease - Recognition and Prevention, on the OSHA website, and in the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Legionellosis Position Paper.

Common sources of potentially contaminated water in the workplace may include:

  • Cooling towers
  • Evaporative condensers
  • Fluid coolers that use evaporation to reject heat
  • Hot-water systems that operate below 140 degrees F
  • Stagnant water in fire sprinkler systems
  • Warm water for eye washes and safety showers
  • Process water systems
  • Blow down activities

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