Our team of water quality experts have developed a good resource of answers to some common questions asked by our customers. If you have a question on workplace compliance, please email us at info@assurityconsulting.co.uk

    How often should I be carrying out temperature tests for my domestic water outlets?

    The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommend that temperature testing of sentinel domestic outlets (those closest and furthest from the water supply and representative of the system as a whole) should take place on a monthly basis, and all outlets in a building should be tested on an annual basis. This is to make sure that cold water temperatures are operating below 20°C within two minutes of flushing and all hot water services achieve between 50ºC and 60°C within one minute of flushing. This task must be recorded also stating the location, date and the name of the person carrying out the checks.

    However, in some instances carrying out temperature tests of a greater number of outlets in a building more regularly may also be needed, as for example water temperatures can change significantly due to seasonal variation. Where cold water temperatures might be 10ºC in the winter months, mains water is often supplied above 20ºC during the summer. These temperatures can provide an ideal environment in which Legionella can multiply; putting yourself and occupants at risk.

    You can manage this risk by understanding the water temperatures in your building throughout the year; this will enable you to take suitable actions and precautions. For example, Legionella grow best in water that is stagnant, and more frequent temperature testing of all outlets can identify where stagnant water may be sitting and gaining heat within a system. Using this information, you can implement a flushing regime of low usage outlets to increase water turnover and minimise the risk of Legionella infection; even during the summer months. 

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    Legionella Management

    What are the legal requirements for drinking water in buildings?

    Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) regulations 1992, each employer has a duty for “an adequate supply” of “wholesome” drinking water for their employees (Regulation 22). The strict guidelines for what constitute wholesome drinking water are set by the Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 2018 and the Water Supply (Water Quality) (Scotland) Regulations 2010. These detail what, if any are the permissible levels of chemicals and micro-organisms in water intended for drinking. This includes indicator bacteria, such as coliforms, that might suggest other more harmful bacteria such as salmonella may be present in the water too.

    Achieving compliance comes down to following the guidelines and regulations to make sure the cleanliness of outlets and water systems. Cleaning procedures should comply with manufacturers specifications and be reviewed to make sure they are effective. It is important for those responsible to be aware of hygiene standards and sanitising procedures to prevent the growth of bacteria and maintain a wholesome supply of water.

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    Is bottled water better than tap water?

    By its very nature, bottled water will contain more bacteria (albeit harmless) than tap water (in the UK) as it has undergone less treatment. The UK has some of the best quality mains water in the UK. Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, the employer must demonstrate that the water they provide for drinking purposes is "wholesome". By wholesome the regulations mean that the water should not contain certain micro-organisms or chemicals nor should it have any unpleasant taste, odour, colour or turbidity. 

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    What are Coliforms and E.coli?

    Coliform bacteria are a broad group of microorganisms which are commonly found in soil, on plants, and in surface water as well as in the intestines of humans and warm-blooded animals. The presence of bacteria and other pathogens in your drinking water can cause things such as diarrhoea, vomiting, dysentery, hepatitis, and polio, so establishing whether there are coliforms in your drinking water is incredibly important

    E.coli is a type of coliform bacteria found in the lower intestines of warm-bodied animals and humans. While some E.coli strains are harmless, others can cause severe illness. Just as E.coli can contaminate food, it can also appear in the public drinking water supply. Contaminations can occur through cross-contamination or as a result of poor cleaning practices. Children under the age of five, the elderly, expectant mothers, and those with weakened immune systems are at an increased risk of severe illness and complications.

    If testing shows that your drinking water contains coliforms or E.coli, it is advised that you do not drink the water straight from the tap until your water system has been disinfected and adequate treatment processes are in place.

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    What is Pseudomonas aeruginosa?

    Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a bacterium commonly found in the environment, such as soil and water. Contamination of your domestic water services can result from the bacteria either being introduced via the mains supply or through poor cleaning or installation practices. It is common to find pseudomonas aeruginosa in vending machines and drinking water dispensers; the bacteria can attach to the internal pipework surfaces and form a biofilm to protect themselves and then start to multiply. Once established, it is very difficult to get rid of due to the inaccessibility of many of the components of these machines.

    It can cause a wide range of infections, particularly in those with a weakened immune system, people with severe burns, and people with open wounds, so it is a particular concern in healthcare facilities. In an office environment, it can cause problems with the colour and taste of water, and it can harbour other bacteria (including potentially harmful ones), so disinfection with a food-grade disinfectant is therefore recommended. 

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    Do I have to clean my cold and drinking water storage tanks on a regular basis?

    There is no set frequency for cleaning your cold and drinking water storage tanks; they only need to be cleaned if there is evidence of heavy debris or corrosion, severe stagnation, unusually heavy scale formation, or evidence of biological fouling. Your tanks should be checked on at least an annual basis to ensure they are in a good condition both internally and externally, suitably insulated with vermin guards and a secure hatch fitted as well as an appropriate drain off point. The water should be clear with good turnover and the tank should have minimal sedimentation and ideally no corrosion or scale build up. Assurity Consulting recommend a six monthly internal and external inspection and a check of the stored water temperature, to help assess seasonal variation.

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    How often should my temperature monitoring equipment be calibrated?

    You should document evidence to show that temperature probes used for water temperature testing are calibrated annually to a suitable temperature range e.g. 0-100°C. This will help to ensure accuracy of results.

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    Should outlets supplied by thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs) be sampled?

    To establish if the circulating hot water or the distributed cold water is under control, samples (either TVC and/or Legionella samples) should be taken from separate hot and cold water outlets which are not blended. This will ensure the sample is representative of the water flowing around the system and not just of the area downstream of the mixing valve. Where monitoring for Legionella is considered appropriate in hot and cold water systems, sampling should be carried out in accordance with BS 7592 Sampling for Legionella organisms in water and related materials. The complexity of the system will need to be taken into account to determine the appropriate number of samples to take. To ensure the sample is representative of the water flowing around the system and not just of the area downstream of the fitting, samples should be taken from separate hot and cold outlets rather than solely through mixer taps or outlets downstream of TMVs.

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    What is TVC sampling?

    TVC is the total viable count of culturable bacteria (per volume or area) in a given sample. TVC sampling provides data on the presence of general bacteria in your domestic hot, cold, and drinking water systems. Sampling can help to confirm if water systems are well maintained and are achieving sufficient turnover and may help to identify areas of improvement.

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    How regularly should I review my water management documentation?

    You should complete an annual review of your water systems management documentation. This should take into account whether or not control parameters have been consistently achieved, and if not, what additional measures have been undertaken. Any additional control measures must be documented. An annual review should also include a full review of method statements and task specific risk assessments. If changes are required, revised documents should be submitted to the appointed responsible person for approval. In addition to this, current competency levels should be reviewed, and decisions should be made on if any additional training is required.

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