Department of Health

Cooling tower system management during COVID-19 response

Circumstances related to the coronavirus (COVID-19 response), such as changes in usual processes or reduced personnel, may mean the risk classification for cooling towers has changed. Risk classification should be reviewed and revised as appropriate by those responsible for cooling tower safety.

Where the risk classification for the system has not changed, it is essential that cooling towers in normal operation are maintained and tested in line with the recommended operational program.

Where the risk classification has changed, it is satisfactory to put in place a temporary operational program and this should be reflected in the risk management plan for the system.

Regulation 63 of the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2019 (the Regulations) says that the maintenance and testing obligations in the Regulations do not apply to a cooling tower system that is shut down or otherwise not in use.

Managing Legionella when returning buildings into operation

The risk of Legionella growth in cooling towers increases if the system has not been used.

The public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2019 require that if a cooling tower system has been shut down for greater than one month, the responsible person must ensure that:

  1. a chlorine-compatible bio-dispersant is added to the recirculating water; and
  2. the recirculating water is disinfected; and
  3. the interior of each cooling tower in the cooling tower system is cleaned; and
  4. the recirculating water is re-disinfected.

The department recommends that any cooling tower system that has been shut down for any amount of time should be reviewed. The review should evaluate the critical risks following the process outlined in Section 7 Evaluating the critical risks.

Reviewed 15 September 2021


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