ASSE International should be commended for its leadership in establishing the first-ever certification program in the United States for people involved in managing the risk of Legionella associated with building water systems.
I had the pleasure of talking online with Marianne Waickman, the Professional Qualifications Director for ASSE. Here are her answers to questions about the new 12080 Legionella certification standard:
Bethany: Before we get into any questions about ASSE 12080, can you tell us a little bit about ASSE and your role there?
Marianne: ASSE is ASSE International – formerly we were “American Society of Sanitary Engineering” – and we have been around since 1906, developing standards. We are now under the umbrella of a larger organization, IAPMO, but we still operate independently as ASSE, so we have a long history. This is not our first certification. We’ve been certifying for about 25 years and writing standards for longer than that.
Bethany: When did ASSE first start exploring the idea of establishing certifications for people involved with Legionella and water management?
Marianne: We’ve had the idea for a long time, as our membership has been keeping us abreast of all of the activity in the development of ASHRAE Standard 188, and so probably it was eight years ago that it was first brought to our attention that this is going to be important to the industry and that there’s going to be a need for additional support for the people that are in the industry. Of course, it wasn’t developed immediately and took a while to get it developed.
Bethany: We know that despite all of the Legionella studies and data that are out there, there are some issues that experts disagree on. Was the standard development process easy or were there some difficult or even heated discussions to reach agreement on standard requirements?
Marianne: Well, I’ll just first answer and say that never is a standard easily developed, but we were very fortunate that we have a large subject matter expert group which we call the “working group” that worked on this and they are very knowledgeable. But probably what made this a little more streamlined and easier for us to get through is the fact that we had very clear direction coming from ASHRAE 188. Though, yes, there are certainly conflicting ideas on how to remediate Legionella in a water system and things like that. We had to work through it, and we had good direction on what needed to be done.
Bethany: ASSE 12080 is an ANSI standard. For those unfamiliar with ANSI, could you explain a little bit about what ANSI is and what it means that ASSE 12080 is an ANSI standard?
Marianne: Our board of directors made a decision many years ago that all of the standards we write are going to be under the ANSI process, so we are an ANSI-approved standards developer and we develop standards under the principles of balance, openness, due process, and consensus. This makes sure that everyone has a voice in the process, but it doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree and, in the end, it doesn’t mean that everyone has to have approved it. We do attempt to resolve any questions that come up. The American National Standards Institute is what ANSI stands for, and many standards in the United States are developed under that process as it’s the only standards program in the United States.
Bethany: Do you actually refer to it as the Legionella standard or 12080?
Marianne: We go back and forth on it – we don’t want to confuse anyone by saying that we have written a Legionella standard, on the same level as a system standard like ASHRAE 188 is, but we do shortcut the fact that it is for Legionella specialists by calling it our “Legionella standard.”
Bethany: The ASSE 12080 document list several topics that an individual needs to learn and to be tested on in order to receive this certification – everything from general facts about Legionnaires disease, Legionella, and other pathogens to building water systems, water management programs, and ASHRAE 188. For what type of person or job function is the certification intended?
Marianne: Because there are so many different systems out there, this really applies to different kinds of people that work within many kinds of systems like huge complexes and campuses that have multiple buildings, and they may have multiple specialists on staff just to be addressing their systems. There are also infection control preventionists that will be involved as well that have nothing to do with a plumbing system or an HVAC system. CEOs are on some of these because ultimately they are responsible for their building and what happens within it. We also have to look at the smaller systems, such as nursing homes. There are also people involved with water treatment who are going to want to take this so they understand all the consequences involved. I won’t say it’s limitless, but it is certainly for anybody who works in any way where infection control is imperative.
Bethany: Diving into the standard itself, what are the requirements for a person to become certified?
Marianne: There is a minimum training of 24 hours, which some people will far exceed. The training is done by approved training providers, or schools, in different parts of the country and online. The exam will come from ASSE, as we’re the third-party certifier. By third-party certifier, I mean that we will not train students on our own, but after someone has completed training from an approved school – HC Info being one of these approved schools – the student will then take a 100-question written exam. They have to pass with a minimum score of 80 percent. They must re-certify every three years.
Bethany: Does an individual need to have any kind of pre-requisite like a college degree or Legionella-related experience in order to qualify to start the certification process, or is it just completing those 24 hours of approved education and taking the exam?
Marianne: There is no pre-requisite requirement and there is no degree that is required. Certainly, someone who comes from within the piping industry or from within infection control may be a little bit ahead or this might be a little bit easier for them than for someone who has had no exposure previously.
Bethany: Is there anything else that you would like to say about the new ASSE 12080 standard?
Marianne: We’re really happy with it, we’re really proud of the standard and we think that it’s meeting a need and will help those who are building owners and ultimately responsible for those systems.
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