​The authorised officer has a legislated role with powers to investigate systems and enforce compliance with Public Health Regulation 2012 (the Regulation).

Authorised officers have roles in both the routine management of cooling water systems, and in investigating outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease.

In 2018, NSW Health strengthened the Regulation to require a performance based (or risk management) approach to managing cooling water systems.

Last updated: 10 August 2018
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​Who is the authorised officer?

Authorised officers are typically environmental health officers. They are employed by local government authorities or NSW Health.

What are the roles and powers of authorised officers?

Authorised officers carry out regulatory oversight functions and ensure that occupiers, duly qualified persons (DQPs), competent persons and independent auditors comply with the Regulation.

Authorised officers have powers under the Public Health Act 2010 and the Regulation to:

  • enter and inspect premises
  • inspect documents and direct the occupier to make required documents and information available
  • take samples from the cooling water system
  • direct additional testing of the cooling water system
  • direct a disinfection, decontamination, or full system clean to be performed
  • direct a new risk assessment to be undertaken
  • serve improvement notices (requiring remedial actions to be taken) and prohibition orders (requiring the system to be shut down)
  • issue penalty infringement notices.

What documents and information can authorised officers require?

Authorised officers can require occupiers to provide the following documents:

  • the current Risk Management Plan (RMP) and certificate of RMP completion
  • audit reports and certificates of audit completion for the past 5 years
  • monthly reports (including inspection, maintenance (including servicing), lab reports for chemical analysis and microbial testing) for the past 5 years
  • the operating and maintenance manuals for the system
  • all records of the maintenance and service of the system.

Authorised officers can require occupiers to provide the following information:

  • details of each duly qualified person (DQP) who installed, operated or maintained the cooling water system in the last 5 years
  • details of any competent person who has provided services in relation to the cooling water system in the last 5 years.

Documents should either be:

  • kept on the premises and made available on request, or
  • kept electronically and made available within 4 hours of request by an authorised officer.

What is an improvement notice?

An improvement notice requires the occupier to comply with a specified enforceable requirement within a period of 72 hours (or a longer period if specified in the notice).

An authorised officer may serve an improvement notice if the officer believes, on reasonable grounds, that the cooling water system does not comply with a prescribed installation, maintenance or operating requirement.

What is a prohibition order?

A prohibition order requires that the cooling water system is not operated until the occupier has been given a clearance certificate.

An authorised officer may serve a prohibition order to the occupier if they believe, on reasonable grounds, that:

  • The occupier has not complied with an improvement notice within the time required under the notice, and the prohibition order is necessary to prevent or mitigate a serious risk to public health, or
  • The system does not comply with a prescribed installation, maintenance or operating requirement and a prohibition order (rather than an improvement notice) is urgently needed to prevent or mitigate a serious risk to public health.

What is a penalty infringement notice?

A penalty infringement notice (PIN) is a fixed financial penalty for an offence prescribed by the Regulation. The PIN can be issued as a ticket on the spot, or sent by email or post, and contains information about the alleged offence and fine amount.

The Regulation allows authorised officers to serve penalty infringement notices when:

  • The occupier has been issued a unique identification number and has not displayed the number on a sign on the cooling tower, in the required size and material, within 30 days of the local government authority providing the number
  • The occupier has been served with a prohibition order, and has not displayed a copy of the order in a conspicuous place at or near each entrance to the premises. The period of time that the order needs to be displayed will be specified in the prohibition order.

What is the role of authorised officers during Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks?

Authorised officers from local government authorities and public health units support the outbreak investigation by carrying out an environmental investigation, using their powers to investigate cooling water systems, and enforcing compliance with the Regulation (see full list of powers above).

The environmental investigation aims to locate possible sources of aerosols containing Legionella (such as cooling towers) in the area where the Legionnaires’ disease cases were potentially exposed.

What further guidance and training is available?

The NSW Guidelines for Legionella Control in Cooling Water Systems explain the new requirements in detail.

This series of factsheets on Legionella Control in Cooling Water Systems​ provides key information for each stakeholder.

NSW Health has developed the Legionella Control in Cooling Water Systems training program together with TAFE NSW. Authorised officers are encouraged to complete this training. 

For more information

  • Learn more about the new requirements.
  • Contact your local council or call your local public health unit on 1300 066 055.
  • Non-English speaker? Call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 13 14 50.

 

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Page Updated: Friday 10 August 2018
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW