Building water systems can be dangerous if they’re poorly designed and managed – yet it’s a problem that’s easily solved by a proper Water Safety Plan. We’ve just produced a new standard giving guidance on water safety planning. This blog post sets out why it’s been written and what it does.
People can make the mistake of assuming that because the public water supply into their building is safe, the water in the building must be safe also. But of course, this overlooks the risk of microbial contamination or chemical contamination within the building. Or that its water system could harbour opportunistic waterborne pathogens. To tackle these risks head-on, we’ve just published a new British Standard: BS 8680:2020 Water quality. Water Safety Plans. Code of practice.
Water Safety Plans (WSP) are the most effective way to consistently ensure the safety of drinking water. It provides a comprehensive risk-management approach. This is based on identifying all the significant risks to public health, ensuring that effective controls and barriers are applied to minimize these risks to acceptable levels, and monitoring the operation of the controls and barriers to ensure that safety is maintained.
The WSP approach was originally developed by the World Health Organization to give water providers guidance on managing drinking water quality. It’s now widely applied throughout the world. It asks building water systems’ designers to acknowledge the potential for harm from water contamination by minimizing the potential for ingress and by ensuring there are effective interventions to mitigate any potential risks. This approach ensures the quality of water supplied up to the point of use.
Recommendations and guidance
BS 8680:2020 gives recommendations and guidance for the development of a WSP. It applies to all types of premises and undertakings with water systems that can pose a risk to those exposed, either from the water itself or aerosols derived from it. It covers the building’s water system and takes in consideration any related devices such as cooling towers, washing machines, boilers, swimming pools, hot tubs, and their associated equipment.
The standard is intended to be used as a code of practice to demonstrate good practice and compliance. It will be especially important where a WSP is particularly recommended within existing national guidance, such as in healthcare. It also cross-references BS 8580-1:2019 Water quality. Risk assessments for Legionella control. Code of practice, which deals with the risk assessments for Legionella.
Fit for purpose
The BS 8680 provides a useful tool to ensure all aspects of risk arising from water have been considered and managed appropriately and will be especially useful when developing plans to cope with the current challenges of maintaining water safety during the pandemic.
BS 8680 applies to the development of WSPs for new buildings, as well as to modifications and renovations to existing water systems. It can also be applied retrospectively to control risks to health from all types of water use. Irrespective of when they are developed, WSPs should be reviewed periodically to ensure that they are current and fit for purpose, especially if there’s been significant changes to the system or its management.
The new standard is designed to be used by anyone involved in ensuring water is safe and fit for purpose at the point of use. This includes duty holders, appointed responsible/accountable persons, WSGs and all those who have an influence on the safety of water systems. That includes anyone with responsibilities during the development process for new and refurbished/upgraded systems from tender specification; design; purchasing; installation and commissioning right up to operation; maintenance and repair of water systems and related equipment.
Where there are existing water systems and associated equipment, this new standard will inform and support all the relevant stakeholders. These include operators, users, service providers, water treatment providers, professional bodies and regulators, public health and environmental health professionals, risk assessors, providers of sampling and laboratory services, repair and maintenance, specialist advisors/authorizing engineers, responsible persons, standard-setting bodies and certification agencies, infection-control teams and personnel in hospitals, healthcare, dental and medical facilities and so on.
Water systems are often managed by general maintenance staff with little training or expertise. As a result, there are many examples where faults within buildings have led to outbreaks of drinking-water-derived diseases that can cause harm or even death. For that reason, this new British Standard is making an important contribution, and is likely to prove very popular and useful in future.
An infographic on how to develop a Water Safety Plan (WSP) based on BS 8680: 2020 is now available. This infographic is free to download. Please click here and fill out a form.