From 1 February 2013, the marketing and use of elemental copper as a biocide is no longer allowed under the Biocidal Products Directive and the national Biocidal Products Regulations 2001, which implement the Directive in Great Britain.

The HSE has confirmed that it has submitted an ‘essential use derogation’ to the European Commission to allow for the continued use of copper in Legionella control systems within the UK; and it is they who will decide whether or not to grant an ‘essential use’ derogation. Until the outcome of the application is known, the HSE states that it’s primary concern is that Legionella control is not compromised.

The HSE and LA inspectors will take a sensible and proportionate approach to enforcement if they come across these systems after 1 February 2013. During this interim period, the focus of any enforcement activity will be on the failure to control the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria and the likelihood of legionnaire’s disease developing in a given situation, rather than on the means of control.

According to the HSE website, the HSE and LA inspectors will take into account:

  •     the effectiveness of the approach to preventing or controlling the risks from legionella;
  •     the fact that the UK has submitted an essential use derogation application to the EU Commission;
  •     the limited time period for the Commission to consider the application;
  •     the necessary continued use of the system for the control of legionella in this interim period; and
  •     the steps taken to consider alternative controls should the derogation application not be successful.

The main point is that Organisations using Copper Silver Ionisation, must take action now.

The HSE statement is clear that should they not be successful in gaining an essential use derogation, these organisations will be expected to have already  taken the necessary steps to implement an alternative control strategy.