What are the benefits of a water safety audit?
If you are looking for information about the benefits of a water safety audit and how one could help improve regulatory compliance for your business… then read on. In this review the water safety experts at Legionella Control International explain what this type of safety audit involves, highlighting the benefits to be gained in conducting one.
The review explains the basics of water safety compliance and what a water safety audit includes. It looks at why you should consider conducting a safety audit in the first place, the benefits of doing so, who can perform one and if they are a legal requirement.
A version of this story dealing with the benefits of a water safety audit appeared in Legionella Control International’s newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
Water safety compliance
Every business and organisation, regardless of size, has a duty of care to make sure it runs safely for employees, customers, and visitors alike. There are numerous rules and regulations covering health and safety, environmental topics and water safety that drive this process, including the Health and Safety Executives ACOP L8, and in healthcare, the Department of Health’s HTM 04-01 and HTM 03-01, amongst others. This means it is vital to have processes and planning in place to ensure the business continually runs safely and its water systems or processes that use water pose no danger to anyone who works there or visits the premises.
In many cases, this means named employees are given certain tasks to perform that contribute to the overall safety of the business. This could mean becoming part of a water safety group, creating a water safety plan to keep the water systems safe from dangers such as Legionella bacteria, pseudomonas and other waterborne pathogens.
However, while these employees may be trained and experienced in their specialist areas, it is still best practice to conduct a water safety audit at regular periods to ensure the appropriate plans are in place and actions are being taken to manage water safety compliance throughout the business.
What does a water safety audit include?
Each business or organisation must make sure various health and safety tasks are conducted as and when required by the law. Water safety is just one part of this. There may also be other guidelines or recommendations that are specific to that business or indeed to the area it operates in.
However, it is often prudent to have an independent expert auditor from outside the business assess how various elements are being handled including the management structure and performance, water hygiene compliance and procedures for improvement. Elements reviewed as part of a water safety audit may include:
- Key appointments, including the Duty Holder, Responsible Persons and supporting staff.
- Roles, responsibilities, and lines of communication.
- Water safety related policies and procedures.
- Records management.
- Risk assessment procedures.
- Implementation of remedial actions.
- Evidence of testing, monitoring and performance of risk management systems.
- Assessment of staff competence against allocated tasks.
- Improvement processes.
Why should you conduct a water safety audit?
Even if you believe your business handles all aspects of water safety in an efficient and knowledgeable way, can you be certain you haven’t missed anything? Could there be an issue somewhere that hasn’t been noticed and yet could potentially lead to a bigger problem such as colonisation of your water systems by Legionella bacteria or even an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease?
A water safety compliance audit covers such topics, thereby reducing the risk that something might go wrong in future. The water audit may also identify ways in which you can adjust your approach to certain health and safety issues. Businesses change and develop over time, as do the buildings they occupy. An audit is a powerful tool that could help you limit any missteps or neglected areas along the way.
For example, let’s assume your business has a risk assessment and water safety plan to reduce the risk of legionella spreading throughout the water system. If there are changes to the building, how it’s being used, occupancy levels or the water system itself, the water risk changes too. For example, a shower room may no longer be used. New pipework might be installed while leaving a run of old pipework in place. Parts of the building are mothballed. These are all elements that could lead to a raised risk of legionella spreading through the system. A water safety audit could help identify whether you’re taking the right approach and the right actions to minimise the risk, even when changes do occur.
What are the advantages of a water safety audit?
There are many advantages involved in auditing your water safety compliance procedures. No matter how big or small your business might be, there are almost certainly going to be some major advantages to consider. Let’s go through some of the main ones here.
A water audit can highlight any missed or neglected areas
Even if you think your business is managing all its water safety responsibilities efficiently, can you be confident you haven’t missed anything? You probably know that a fresh pair of “expert” eyes can often spot things others might miss, simply because people who are on the scene and working in that environment every day don’t see things in the same way.
Compliance audits can make the business and workplace safer
Since the water safety auditing process covers health and safety topics, it’s easy to see how it may highlight other areas that could potentially cause safety issues. Employees will enjoy greater confidence in their workplace and employer, knowing that any water safety issues are dealt with responsibly and quickly.
Audits can lead to a better reputation
Conducting a regular audit of your safety procedures, including water safety and other topics relevant to the running of your business, is a positive thing to do. It shows customers, clients, safety regulators and others that you are serious about running a reliable and safe business. There’s also less chance of being caught out if something goes wrong.
A water safety audit can prevent issues occurring in future
An accident at work may lead to an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive. Regular safety audits can make sure nothing like this gets a chance to happen, thereby protecting workers and the reputation of the business.
Who can perform a water safety audit?
It’s possible that someone from inside your business can perform the audit. Of course, they must possess enough knowledge and experience to be able to do so. They should have experience of auditing processes and know how to conduct one that covers all aspects of water safety compliance in the business.
You can also choose to appoint an experienced external auditor such as Legionella Control International to handle the process for you. In some businesses, especially those with large, complex or multiple properties, or where a higher risk exists, this is often the best approach to take. You can be sure the service is performed by an experienced expert who is trained and qualified to perform the audit and spot any issues of concern.
Another advantage of using an external auditor is that they’ll be completely impartial to the process. They will have no preconceived ideas or insider knowledge about the business. This gives them a unique and independent position, one that those inside the business won’t have.
Do you need to conduct a compliance audit regularly by law?
No – there are no laws that state you must carry-out a compliance audit at all, much less at certain times. However, it’s worth considering the potential risk you may run by not adopting a regular audit for your business.
For the year 2020/21, the UK’s Health and Safety Executive issued £26.9 million in fines to those found guilty of offences under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Those figures are lower than might be expected too, due to COVID-19. The average fine was into six figures, so you can see the potential risks involved when things go wrong with health and safety compliance.
Even if there is no intention to ignore the laws, your business could still suffer considerably. Regardless of potential prosecution for offences under the Act, along with possible fines, there is the issue of your business coming under additional scrutiny from the press, investors customers and partners. It could be viewed less favourably by all sorts of stakeholders which could have serious consequences for the business and its reputation.
So, while a water safety compliance audit isn’t required by law, it is crucial if you want to be sure your business stays compliant with all relevant legislation. It’s a clear sign to key stakeholders, including external regulators such as the Health and Safety Executive, that the management team is serious about maintaining a safe and efficient business on all counts.
Could your business benefit from a water safety audit?
It’s clear that most if not all businesses could benefit from a water safety audit. They are not only cost effective; they also provide that extra peace-of-mind to the management team confirming they are managing water safety risk effectively.
For many business owners, the easiest way to conduct an audit is to engage the services of a professional. The benefits of doing so – and the potential risks of deciding not to – are clear.
World leading water safety specialists
The water safety specialists at Legionella Control International help business owners and those responsible for the control of legionella and other waterborne pathogens in all types of water systems. We provide expert support to organisations of all shapes and sizes, helping them to meet their health and safety compliance obligations in this specialist area.
We are experienced safety auditors and can assist organisations in the development of water safety compliance strategies across large 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 water safety specialists, please call us today on 0330 223 36 87…