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Make sure your drinking water is safe

WaterSafe is advising owners, landlords and managers of hotels which have been empty or under-occupied during lockdown to check their drinking water system before reopening.

Prolonged inactivity can lead to poor water quality and growth of bacteria, such as legionella, which can be harmful to health when taps get turned on again. The register of approved plumbers, set up by UK water companies, is encouraging everyone responsible for hotels, restaurants, public buildings and other settings to help protect the health of employees as well as visitors.

Their guidance highlights the need for a proper plan to recommission water systems before turning taps back on and welcoming employees and the public into buildings. This includes advice to ‘flush’ the water system with fresh water to replace all water inside pipework and appliances.

Julie Spinks, director of WaterSafe, says: “Given the understandable focus on Covid-19 precautions, we’re reminding building owners, managers and landlords that it is the legal duty of those in control of premises to reduce the risks of exposure to legionella bacteria and to make sure their water supplies are safe.” The following steps will help make sure water is fresh and safe:

• Run all taps individually, starting with the tap nearest to where water enters the building and move systematically to the most distant outlet. Run until the water is clear and feels cool to the touch.
• Where water is stored, storage cisterns should be emptied and filled direct from the incoming supply, before flushing the taps.
• Flushing should be carried out in a way which minimises water droplets in the air, so remove showerheads prior to flushing. This reduces the risks of legionella transmission.
• Safety considerations should be given to those doing the flushing, including wearing appropriate PPE.
• Ensure all appliances are thoroughly flushed before use, using manufacturer’s instruction manuals.
• If the property has internal filters or water softeners, these should be checked to ensure they are working correctly.
• Larger buildings, with storage tanks and more complex pipework, are likely to require more extensive flushing followed by cleaning and disinfection.

Anyone with a complex plumbing system should have a competent person oversee the work. Approved plumbers registered with WaterSafe have specific training in the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations and Scottish Byelaws.

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