» HYDROP E.C.S: the path to UKAS accredited Legionella risk management
With around 30 fatal cases of Legionnaires’ disease reported each year in the UK, managing the risk of Legionella is clearly a priority for any Duty Holder. The majority of organisations, both small and large, do not have the in-house resources to assess and tackle the threat of Legionella sufficiently, so will utilise the services of a specialist Risk Assessment Company.
The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Approved Code of Practice and guidance document L8 (Legionnaires’ disease: The control of Legionella bacteria in water systems), states: “The Duty Holder must ensure that the person who carries out the risk assessment and provides advice on prevention and control of exposure must be competent to do so.” The clear message is that an organisation using the services of a Legionella Risk Assessor who isn’t competent will also be held liable in the event of an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease.
Duty Holders will therefore want to make sure that the organisation undertaking the testing has the people, facilities, technical expertise, management systems and track records to undertake the work professionally and competently. The key question for Duty Holders becomes how they can be sure that the Risk Assessor is competent, and thereby help to discharge their legal obligations. One answer is to use the services of an organisation that has been accredited by The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).
HYDROP E.C.S. is a broadly accredited and widely respected independent consultancy practice specialising exclusively in the management of Legionella and water quality. Growing steadily in size since its inception in 1991, HYDROP E.C.S., now proudly celebrating its 25th Anniversary, provides a range of impartial and bespoke consultancy services such as system auditing, training and UKAS accredited Legionella risk assessments. The Company does not have any industry or geographical boundaries, currently servicing Clients from Dumfries and Galloway to Devon and Cornwall and as far as Qatar, Oman and the Falklands.
Mike Koumi, Managing Partner at HYDROP E.C.S., appreciates the role that UKAS accreditation has in proving to alleviating part of the duty holders’ burden. “Competency is a vital component of health and safety, with the obligation to demonstrate this being placed on the Duty Holder. Not only does competency consider knowledge, training, skills and experience, it also considers an inherently vital element: attitude. Accreditation allows unbiased and impartial, third-party assessment of the providers of Legionella Risk Assessments, which will assist in delivering confidence to the Duty Holder and differentiate superior quality as a result.”
Maintaining consistency in the quality of its work is very important to both HYDROP E.C.S. and its Customers. In addition to centralising all of its activities through its main office, HYDROP E.C.S. achieves this consistency by having all of its work processed and measured through quality assurance processes, including ISO/IEC 17020:2012, ISO 9001:2008, ISO 14001:2004. Mike Koumi states: “External accreditation is the tool we use to develop, monitor, assess, and evaluate the standards and quality of the services we provide to our Clients. The process of accreditation allows both existing and prospective Clients to have confidence that the services they commission for are trustworthy, valuable and worthwhile.”
Whilst accreditation may not be mandatory for Legionella sp. and Pseudomonas aeruginosa control, there are benefits to holding UKAS accreditation for these services, as Mike Koumi explains: “External accreditation is increasingly a frequently specified requirement for operation in the local and global market place. Existing and prospective Clients consider such accreditation as an indication that we have reviewed our business and consultancy services practices and have independently determined that the final services product complies with specific standards for accuracy, correctness, safety, quality or performance. We consider external accreditation as essentially the process of publicly attesting that a specified quality and standard has been achieved or exceeded.”
In addition to providing assurance to a wider existing and potential customer base, accreditation can also benefit the Company internally. Mike Koumi says: “As a business, we also consider external accreditation as an invaluable tool which we use to identify and acknowledge individuals within our Organisation who have met or exceeded a recognised standard. For us, this standard includes education, experience, and routine examination of knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to perform the job.” In turn this has had a positive effect on the service the Company provides, as Mike continues: “Technological and scientific developments are constantly changing the understanding and knowledge of the subject, which leads to constant review/revision of the advice we give. On-going knowledge assessment and training of all our staff ensures that we keep abreast of current developments.”
Confidence in the accuracy of results is enhanced if Duty Holders know they have been thoroughly evaluated by an independent, competent testing facility. Accreditation by UKAS demonstrates an organisation’s competence, impartiality and capability, and helps to underpin the credibility of performance, goods and services in both the UK and international arenas. Employing the services of a UKAS accredited laboratory means choosing a technically competent laboratory and is a powerful demonstration that Duty Holders have exercised all due diligence in the selection and appointment of a supplier.
Achieving accreditation is no mean feat, but has been a very positive and beneficial process for HYDROP E.C.S. and its Customers, as Mike Koumi concludes: "We strongly feel that achieving external accreditation to ISO/IEC 17020:2012 has enabled our Company to qualify for and win more projects, as well as strengthen Client confidence in our expertise. We consider that it provides third-party proof that we are as good as we say we are! It has also led to better development, implementation, management and administration of all our services."