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High risk manufactured water system compliance inspection by an independent competent inspector

The South Australian Public Health (Legionella) Regulations 2013 require the relevant authority (usually the local council) to inspect all registered cooling water systems and warm water systems in their area for compliance with the Legionella Regulations at least once a year. Alternatively, the relevant authority can issue a notice to the system owner, requiring them to engage an independent competent person to undertake a compliance inspection and prepare a report.

The following has been designed to assist you in when you have received a notice to undertake a compliance inspection by an independent competent inspector: 

Requirements for an independent compliance inspection

The recipient of a notice issued under regulation 15(2) of the Legionella Regulations is required to undertake the following within the period specified in the notice:

  • cause an inspection of the system to be carried out by a competent person (not being the owner or person responsible for the operation and maintenance of the system)
  • arrange for a NATA accredited laboratory to conduct microbiological testing to determine the presence and number of colony forming units of Legionella in the water, in accordance with AS/NZS 3896
    • of at least one sample of water taken from a cooling water system; and
    • of at least two samples of water taken from a warm water system
  • submit written reports setting out the findings of the inspection and the results of the microbiological testing to the relevant authority within one month of receiving the reports.

A system owner is only required to organise an independent compliance inspection if the relevant authority issues them with a written notice under regulation 15(2) of the Legionella Regulations requiring them to do so.

A person to whom a notice is issued under regulation 15(2) must not, without reasonable excuse, fail to comply with the requirements of the notice. The maximum penalty is $5000.

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Inspectors

The Legionella Regulations require that a regulation 15(2) inspection be undertaken by a 'competent person', not being the owner or person responsible for the operation and maintenance of the system.

People who conduct regulation 15(2) inspections can be referred to as independent compliance inspectors.

Independent compliance inspectors play a crucial role in indirectly providing relevant authorities with clear, timely, thorough, accurate and unbiased information.

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Definition of a competent person

The Legionella Regulations define a 'competent person' as a person who:

  • is knowledgeable in the operation and maintenance of high risk manufactured water systems
  • is sufficiently competent to ensure that high risk manufactured water systems are operated and maintained as required by the regulations
  • has qualifications or training in water treatment of high risk manufactured water systems.

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Existing contractors or contract company perform an independent compliance inspection

If your contractor or contract company is nominated as the 'person responsible for the operation and/or maintenance of the system', they cannot perform an inspection required by regulation 15(2) of the Legionella Regulations.

When an independent compliance inspector, their employer, a member of their family, or an associated business has interests which could possibly corrupt, interfere, or appear to interfere with their ability to conduct an honest and unbiased inspection of a particular system, a conflict of interest is present. It is crucial that conflicts of interest are not present, whether real or reasonably perceived, or the reliability of the inspection may be questioned by the relevant authority.

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Accredited inspectors

The Legionella Regulations do not provide provisions for SA Health to endorse or accredit persons to conduct regulation 15(2) inspections. Any person who meets the criteria specified in the Legionella Regulations is able to perform independent compliance inspections in South Australia.

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Selecting a person to undertake the inspection

An independent compliance inspector should also chosen based upon their knowledge, experience, and ability to conduct a comprehensive inspection and provide a comprehensive report. Selection should be similar to the process used when acquiring any professional service.

The independent compliance inspector should be familiar with and thoroughly understand all of the requirements of the Legionella Regulations in order to be able to conduct a satisfactory compliance inspection.

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Considerations and questions to ask when selecting an inspector

SA Health recommends that all of the following factors are considered to assist in selecting an appropriate independent inspector to undertake an independent compliance inspection:

Actual and perceived independence

An independent compliance inspector should not be involved in the day to day operation of the system or belong to or be affiliated with any contracting company engaged by the system owner to perform work on the system. Independent compliance inspectors should not make direct inspection arrangements with, be engaged by or provide information, microbiological results or reports relating to an inspection to another business or individual that provides system associated products or services to the owner of the system; including:

  • operation
  • consulting
  • water treatment
  • maintenance
  • testing (excluding testing associated with mandatory compliance inspections)
  • cleaning.

Competent person

Ask prospective independent inspectors how they meet the criteria of 'competent person' under the Legionella Regulations. You may wish to obtain a written statement confirming that they meet the requirements of a 'competent person' before engaging their services.

Industry knowledge and experience

Ask prospective independent inspectors about their industry knowledge and experience. You may wish to ask them of their knowledge and experience in the industry in which your business operates (for example, process cooling in a plastics factory).

Ability

An independent inspector must have the ability to provide an appropriate inspection and report to the level and depth required by the notice. Furthermore, they must be able to perform the inspection in the period specified in the notice.

Cost

Ask prospective independent inspectors for a competitive quote detailing the service they will provide. Cost is important but it is essential that the quality of the service provided is sufficient to meet the requirements of the notice and to avoid the need for further inspections by the relevant authority which may incur a fee.

Professional associations

Ask prospective independent inspectors if they are a member of any professional associations and how this assists them to conduct their business.

Testimonials

Ask prospective third parties if they have testimonials from other clients

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Collecting water samples

The system owner or the independent compliance inspector can take the water sample(s) from the system and arrange for a NATA accredited laboratory to conduct microbiological testing, in accordance with AS/NZS 3896.

For instructions on sampling procedures for microbiological testing, refer to Schedule 2 of the Legionella Guidelines (PDF 270KB).

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Independent compliance inspection

An independent compliance inspection is not an audit, nor is it a purely a physical inspection of plant and equipment. It is a thorough and complete examination of paperwork, records, procedures and physical components relating to a registered system, to determine whether any non-compliance with the mandatory requirements of the Legionella Regulations is evident at the time of the inspection.

SA Health has produced inspection and report proformas to assist independent compliance inspectors in undertaking compliance inspections and producing the required reports.

Forms

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After the inspection

The independent compliance inspector will provide a written report setting out the findings of the inspection. The system owner is required to submit the inspection report and results of microbiological testing to the relevant authority within one month of receiving the reports.

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Non-compliance

It is important to address non-compliance immediately to protect public health. Independent inspectors should avoid becoming advisers and problem solvers when non-compliance is encountered during an independent inspection, as this will undermine their independence with regards to the system in question and give rise to conflict of interest.

While the pressure and temptation to do so will often be strong, independent inspectors should not (voluntarily or upon request) provide any advice, suggestions, referrals or opinions relating to the rectification of non-compliance observed, documented or reported during or following an independent inspection.

Upon receipt of reports, the relevant authority will review the findings of the independent compliance inspection. In some cases the inspection report will require action by the relevant authority to rectify non-compliance, in order to protect public health and to prevent possible cases or outbreaks of serious disease.

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