Regulatory Changes to the Management of Cooling Water Systems

Published: 13 August 2018

The Public Health Regulation 2012 (the Regulation) was amended on 10 August 2018 with new requirements in relation to the management of cooling water systems in NSW. These amendments aim to further reduce the risk of Legionnaires' disease outbreaks associated with contamination of cooling towers. The amendments were developed in consultation with a range of experts from local government, industry, engineering and public health sectors.

This amendment supplements the amendment that commenced on 1 January 2018, which introduced monthly testing of cooling water systems, and notification of reportable test results to local government authorities.  

The Regulation introduces six safeguards for the prevention of Legionnaires' disease outbreaks from cooling water systems: 

  • Risk assessment of Legionella contamination, documented in a Risk Management Plan (RMP) every five years (or more frequently if required)
  • Independent auditing of compliance with the RMP and Regulation every year 
  • Providing certificates of RMP completion and audit completion to the local government authority 
  • Sampling and testing for Legionella and heterotrophic colony count every month 
  • Notifying reportable laboratory test results (Legionella count 1000 cfu/mL or heterotrophic colony count ,?5,000,000 cfu/mL) to the local government authority 
  • Displaying unique identification numbers on all cooling towers

A suite of supporting material for a range of stakeholders is available on the NSW Health website This includes:

  • Guidelines for Legionella Control in Cooling Water Systems which interprets the Regulation and provides practice guidance to all stakeholders
  • Factsheets which provide an overview of the Regulation, managing cooling water systems over their lifecycle, and roles and responsibilities of different stakeholder groups
  • Approved forms which are required to be used by occupiers and their delegates responsible for managing cooling water systems
  • Training program online and face to face training has been developed in conjunction with TAFE NSW and is expected to be available later in August 2018

Applications for approval to be an independent auditor must be made to the Secretary of NSW Health. The requirements and application process will be finalised and updated shortly on the NSW Health website. 

Local government authorities should now contact occupiers on their register of cooling water systems to notify them of unique identification numbers for each of their cooling towers, and the due date of their first RMP. Occupiers are required to display the unique identification number within 30 days of being notified. The due date of RMPs within a local government area should be allocated so that their completion is spread throughout the year, with due dates of 30 November 2018, 31 March 2019, and 30 June 2019.

General inquiries regarding the amended Regulation can be directed to Public Health Units in the first instance on 1300 066 055.

Specific inquiries regarding the training program and auditor applications can be directed to Health Protection NSW at HRAR@moh.health.nsw.gov.au or (02) 9424 5918.