The welcome new BS8680:2020 Code of Practice should mean that every commercial business will take a leaf out of the healthcare sector’s book on water safety planning.
So says Andrew Steel, managing director of Airmec Essential Services, an independent supplier of water hygiene programmes.
Crisis management of an outbreak of Legionella or Pseudomonas is both late and it is expensive. At best you spend a lot of management time which only adds to the unbudgeted costs; at worst you face shut down.
Airmec Essential Services believes that a Water Safety Plans (WSPs) should be the cornerstone to control water-borne infection, as has become standard practice in the health sector. WSPs introduce effective internal management of processes: risk is shared between all those responsible for safety – from top to bottom of an organisation. This means that regardless of the size of the organisation, employees understand their role and duty to help prevent an outbreak. Whether that be a heating engineer advising on scheduled downtime, since it might reduce the delivery of the water temperature, through to maintenance staff appreciating the necessity to flush taps properly.
As Andrew confirms: “The lead in WSPs comes from the healthcare sector, which introduced the concept of Water Safety Groups (and associated Water Safety Plans). At Airmec, we encourage companies to adopt this health sector model.”
Having a Water Safety Group encourages co-operation throughout an organisation – way beyond the traditional estates and facilities management team. Most importantly having a managed plan allows the organisation to set a budget for the programme, along with contingency funding should an outbreak be discovered.
“Even better, of course, would be funding a “living” risk assessment,” cites Andrew. “This ensures that rather than being put on the shelf until it needs renewing, the organisation follows is a blueprint for preventive maintenance and monitoring.”
Regularly assessing the risks
By far the biggest benefit of a Water Safety Plans is the co-operation between facilities and estates management with other key departments. They actively encourage inter-departmental collaboration working alongside specialist advisors, like Airmec. Using their specially trained water hygiene risk assessors, Airmec can cost to conduct a risk assessment for both hot and cold-water systems. As part of this assessment, they will track the water from start to finish, test the temperature at the source to check cold water is colder than 20°C and the hot water is hotter than 50°C. They will review the pipe work ensuring there are no ‘dead legs’ or other obvious risks for bacteria to accumulate and grow in, for example, a braided flexi hose.
Following a thorough review Airmec’s water hygiene risk assessor will outline a programme to the Health and Safety Group detailing ongoing work they can do themselves including monthly temperature checks, to descaling showers quarterly.
“Once a risk assessment has been drawn up the client will keep a record of this on site,” concludes Andrew. “We will also appoint a ‘responsible person’ within the HSG who has overall management of the programme.”