Written by Michael Dean, Water Systems Manager, Total Water Solutions
Businesses face a wide range of legislative requirements to ensure that their water supplies are safe and hygienic. Ensuring high levels of water hygiene is vitally important. The well-being of your employees, customers or tenants depends on it. Businesses who fail to stay compliant can face prosecution, suffer negative PR, or worse, be responsible for causing potentially fatal illness.
In this article we’ll cover two major areas of water legislation – the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999, and the legislation covering Legionella control – and introduce the main responsibilities your business has for maintaining compliance.
These are an introduction to the main areas of responsibility businesses have, but are not exhaustive. Your business’s regulatory responsibilities will vary depending on a range of factors, so it’s important to get expert advice on what’s required to maintain compliance.
Legionella Risk Management
Legionella is a bacteria which occurs at low levels in natural water supplies, but which can multiply to dangerous levels within water systems. It’s the cause of Legionnaire’s disease, a potentially fatal form of pneumonia.
All businesses have a responsibility to assess and manage legionella risk under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulation (1994). Requirements are set out in the Health and Safety Executive’s Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) L8, and businesses who fail to comply with these regulations could face prosecution.
The main areas of responsibility for your business are as follows:
- Risk assessments
All employers, building owners and landlords are required to carry out a Legionella risk assessment to BS 8580 standard. This is a thorough review of your water system designed to identify areas which could pose a Legionella risk.
- Remedial risk management
Where issues are identified in the Legionella risk assessment, your business will need to carry out remedial work to control the risk. This could include changes to your water systems like removing “deadleg” pipes, replacing tanks or sanitising your systems.
- Monitoring and record keeping
Your business will also be required to monitor and maintain its water systems to control Legionella risk. This could involve regularly cleaning and disinfecting parts of your water system like shower heads, monitoring the temperature of water from taps, and regularly testing water samples for bacteria.
Once a risk assessment has been completed, ongoing Legionella risk management can be very straightforward as long as the right training, processes and measurement methods are put in place from the start. Often, simple measures are all that’s necessary to ensure your water supply is safe and hygienic.
Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999
The Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999 are in place to ensure that any new plumbing systems supplied from public mains are safe, efficient and high quality, reducing the risk of waste, contamination or other problems. While they’re mostly applicable to businesses who are installing new water systems or making modifications to existing systems, there are also some points that all businesses should be aware of.
The legislation covers several major areas:
- Installing new water fitting
If you are installing new water fittings on your business premises, you are responsible for adhering to a number of regulatory requirements. These include notifying your water company of your proposed work ahead of time, and ensuring that work is completed to appropriate quality standards.
- Pressure testing of new supplies
If you’re installing a new water system, you’ll be required to pressure test it before connecting it to the public water mains. During the test, water is pumped into your system at a set pressure, then monitored for 30 minutes for any drops in pressure. This ensures that there are no leaks or weaknesses that could cause water to escape.
During the chlorination process, a disinfectant solution is circulated around your water network, killing bacteria and ensuring that your new water mains are safe. Your water supply will also undergo bacteriological testing to certify that your system is sanitised to the requirements set out in BS 8558. This required before any new water infrastructure is connected to the mains. It can also be necessary if you’ve made significant changes to your water systems, or regularly as a maintenance method for tanks.
The Water Supply regulations help to ensure that your water systems are installed and maintained to the highest standard. They also help to protect the public water mains, by preventing “backflow” from contaminated systems, and by reducing the risk of leaks. By adhering to the right standards when you make changes to your water system, you can also ensure that your systems run as efficiently as possible, saving your business money.
Stay on top of your compliance responsibilities
While water regulation can be quite complex in places, maintaining compliance doesn’t have to be difficult. With the right advice and a strong strategy, your business could have the confidence that it’s fully compliant with all applicable legislation with a minimum of effort.