For most businesses with a premises that welcomes workers or visitors, water safety audits will form a part of their approach to health and safety.
It often constitutes an important part of regulatory compliance, both in terms of general HSE regulations, and regulations which are more industry-specific, in large estate portfolio environments, education and healthcare settings and the like.
Here, we explore the water audit process in a little more detail, to help you understand why they’re important and what value they provide.
For further insights, we recommend reading the guidance from a resource such as the Water Hygiene Centre website.
What does the audit entail?
Water safety audits tend to be carried out on an annual basis, both to gather data in order to gauge safety levels, and to confirm that prior recommendations are being acted upon.
The initial audit will likely involve the provision of significant safety recommendations, depending on the exact situation of course. It will then be the responsibility of certain designated members of staff to carry out those recommendations, to bring the business into full compliance.
Assigning internal responsibilities
One of the first actions in the water safety audit process will be the appointment of Responsible Persons and their associated employees. These will become the people within the company being audited who take responsibility for water safety – within this team, responsibilities, roles and lines of communication will be established.
Water safety audits, as you can see, consist of more than simply testing water sources. Rather, they result in the implementation of systems which change company culture, creating a focal point focused on the creation of a core, responsible group, otherwise known as the Water Safety Group.
The next stage would consist of carrying out risk assessments, or RA’s. Expert contractors will be brought in to carry these out, as they can consist of measuring with specialist equipment. Risk assessments are an ongoing requirement, and they need to be carried out and adapted as the environment changes. The specific legislation that dictates when assessments should be reviewed can be found in the HSE’s ACoP L8, which states that RA’s must be reviewed in cases where it’s probable, or even possible, that the old RA is now outdated. Some of the following circumstances could suggest that a new RA is necessary:
- Legionnaire’s disease outbreak associated with the water system;
- The use of the building changes;
- The use of the water system changes;
- The key personnel change;
- New information regarding control measures or risk;
- Tests indicate that control measures are ineffective.
Implementing remedial measures
In the case that dangerous environmental conditions are found during the audit, the auditing team will be able to suggest and ensure the implementation of remedial measures. For example, it might be the case that higher than acceptable levels of waterborne pathogens are found to be present in the water system.
Remediation tasks may be highlighted that could suggest the removal of blind ends and dead legs in order to avoid areas of stagnation and potential legionella proliferation, temperatures may be highlighted as an area of concern or distribution of flow around a facility etc. This would likely be combined with a review of the monitoring and disinfecting of specific assets within these buildings, to ensure that the relevant measures are effective.
The benefits of water safety audits are clearly more than ‘just’ regulatory compliance – in the case of Legionella pneumophila, they can save lives, by avoiding outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease.