How an Authorising Engineer (Water) Reduces Water Safety Risk
In this water safety review the experts at Legionella Control International consider the role of the authorising engineer (water) and look at how they can help mitigate regulatory compliance risk from Legionella bacteria and Legionnaires’ disease in healthcare and other workplace environments.
The article briefly outlines the role of the authorising engineer (AE) to explain what they do. It then goes on to examine how the AE, members of the Water Safety Group, and Water Safety Plan integrate to improve workplace safety.
A version of this story dealing with the role of the authorising engineer (water) and how they can help to reduce water safety risk appeared in Legionella Control International’s newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
Reducing legionella and water safety risk
There is no doubt that an authorising engineer (water) plays a vital role in helping healthcare organisations and large businesses manage the risks posed by water borne bacteria including legionella and pseudomonas.
It’s crucial that everyone involved in the management and maintenance of a water system recognises and understands the nature of this role. Without such understanding, there is the potential for mishaps to occur. These may include missing activities that could increase risk, overlooking certain tasks or assuming they’re being done by someone else, namely the authorising engineer.
So, let’s look more closely at the water safety role of the authorising engineer (AE) and identify potential scenarios whereby problems could occur.
What does an authorising engineer (water) do?
Firstly, the individual performing the AE role will be independent of the health Trust, organisation or business hiring them to do the job. This means that, other than their consultancy relationship, they will have no direct employment connection with the business and can therefore view the water systems from an independent, outside perspective. Importantly, they also bring significant experience, knowledge, and specialist skills to the table.
The authorising engineer (water) also becomes part of the Water Safety Group, a group set up to manage and control all risks that may be present in the water systems used in the business. It’s important to remember that they are not in charge of this safety group, and do not have a senior role. However, they do provide an outside point of view and specific experience in managing the risks present in the water systems. They should be an active member of the group providing input in various ways to improve safety performance.
Avoiding assumptions about the role of the authorising engineer (water)
This is an area where mistakes can be most likely to occur. It’s relatively common for members of a Water Safety Group to assume that the authorising engineer is going to handle certain tasks. These may include approving aspects of a new build construction or renovation project that involves new or existing water systems. All members of the Water Safety Group should play a part in making sure the design and construction plans are fit for purpose to avoid increasing water safety risk. Blindly assuming the authorising engineer has completed certain tasks or has responsibility for them may lead to mistakes being made.
Even before such circumstances arise, the Water Safety Group should create a Water Safety Plan to cover the use of the water systems. This plan should also list all members of the group, highlighting the specific role played by each person. A clear list of members, along with the roles and responsibilities held by each, is also required. There could be some overlap here too, with more than one person tasked to complete certain roles or tasks.
The importance of having a clear Water Safety Plan
The Water Safety Plan provides a strong framework within which the Water Safety Group can operate. Every member of the group, including the authorising engineer (water), should be fully aware of the plan and its definitions, requirements, and processes. The plan should also be regularly reviewed and kept up to date.
Furthermore, it is not enough for each individual member of the group to be aware of their own role in this scenario. They must also be aware of the roles of everyone else in the group. It’s easy to see how the introduction of an authorising engineer (water) from outside the healthcare organisation or business could lead to confusion within the group. It’s easy to assume that this individual has arrived to take over certain aspects of the group – or even to run it. This is not the case.
The authorising engineer (water) can advise the Water Safety Group on a wide range of legionella and other water safe issues
The AE (water), along with every other group member, provide specific knowledge that contributes to the overall running of the group. In this case, the authorising engineer (water) understands how to manage legionella risks, along with risks posed by other waterborne bacteria. They know where the risk factors are and can readily identify them in many varied locations and scenarios. They can assess the safety of the water system and identify where the risks lie, further clarifying whether those risks can be removed or reduced.
This knowledge then contributes to the approach taken by the Water Safety Group. The authorising engineer (water) would also attend regular meetings by the group, bringing expert advice to the table that is independent of the organisation they have been hired by. Their experience and qualifications also make them the best choice for providing guidance on various water engineering issues.
You can see the difference between guidance and advice and taking over certain aspects of water safety completely. We know that everyone who is part of a Water Safety Group has their own role to play. We have also seen how assumptions made by those working directly for the hiring organisation or company can potentially lead to problems.
Flexible water safety support to suit different scenarios
Finally, it is important to note that the authorising engineer can tailor their services to meet the specific requirements of a certain location, business, premises, or organisation, as appropriate. Some are far more complex and involved than others. With auditing services, competency issues, and other features all carrying importance… clarity is the watchword here from the beginning.
Leading authorising engineers and water safety specialists
Our authorising engineers (water) and water safety specialists support those responsible for the control of legionella and other waterborne pathogens in healthcare organisations and large and multi-site businesses, helping them to meet their health and safety obligations in this specialist area.
We are experienced in the role of Authorising Engineer (Water) and can assist organisations in the development of water safety management teams, policies, and procedures to safeguard staff, clients and others across large scale and multi-site property portfolios, complex facilities and those considered to be higher risk.
If you have questions or you would like to speak with one of our AE water specialists please call us today on 0330 223 36 87…