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You need a water cooler - it’s the law!

You need a water cooler - it’s the law! - article image
Graeme Leighfield

Really?! The words may have sent shivers down your spine, You Need a Water Cooler - It’s The Law! But as an employer, there are all kinds of rules and regulations about how to look after your staff, keeping them safe as they work. The provision of drinking water, along with adequate toilet facilities and hand-washing facilities and so are governed by a set of rules and regulations by the Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations, 1992.

Regulation 22 – the provision of drinking water

Regulation 22 looks at what the employer must do about drinking water. It states;

  1. An adequate supply of wholesome drinking water shall be provided for all persons at work in the workplace.
  2. Every provision of safe drinking water required by paragraph (1) shall –
  3. Be readily accessible at suitable places
  4. be conspicuously marked by an appropriate sign where necessary for reasons of health or safety.
  5. Where a supply of drinking water is required by paragraph (1), there shall also be provided a sufficient number of suitable cups or other drinking vessels unless the provision of drinking water is in a jet from which persons can drink easily.

And so it would seem that the provision of drinking water is probably best done through water cooler, either bottle or mains fed.

How water coolers fulfil these criterias

You want to look after your staff, after all advertising and recruiting personnel costs are expensive for any business to bear. Investing in staff with training and skills is expensive, and so it pays to hold on to them for as long as possible.

Providing a safe and caring environment is important for so many reasons. Encouraging staff to maintain their health is also an important pastoral role for a business to encourage the provision of filtered and clean drinking water a great example of this.

A hydrated workforce is a productive one. People who drink plenty of water throughout the day are also more alert and more focused. Thus, it makes sense that not only should water be provided but that water that is, is filtered, cooled and nice-tasting.

Wholesome drinking water

Many of the water coolers on the market, both the bottle fed and plumbed in versions, not only cool the water as it is dispensed but also filters it too.

In tap water, there are all kinds of chemicals present including the addition of fluoride to keep teeth and gums healthy. It is possible, after running the cold water for an extended period, to detect a chlorine or bleach smell to tap water that some people can find off putting.

Although we are naturally grateful to have clean water from the tap when we turn it on, it is not always a pleasant to think of the chemicals we could be consuming. With water coolers, the carbon filters are a way of removing these chemicals, without removing or reversing the good work they have done.

The right place and the right signs

Clearly, part of providing cooled water to drink is to encourage people to drink it, and one way is to let them know where it is. Therefore conspicuous signage, as the regulations stipulate, should clearly mark where the water cooler is and then at the cooler itself, it should be clearly marked as water fit for drinking.

The provision of cups

Many employees, of course, bring with them their refillable water bottles, glasses and mugs but with water coolers, as part of the packages, thin cardboard or recyclable plastic cups are commonly supplied.

Safety and Contamination

However benign we may think water it, in the environment it has an erosive nature and it can turn from being the elixir of life, to bringing ill-health very quickly.

The danger with water is that this odourless and relatively tasteless substance can turn bad without giving a whiff of dissension at all. In other words, what looks like clear water can be rife with water-borne bacteria, some of which in the right amount of concentration can make us very poorly.

Thus, the provision of water in coolers and other dispensers comes a responsibility to maintain them, so that the water that oozes forth is clean and indeed safe to drink. Bacteria have a habit of not so much forming in the water, but in the apparatus it touches as it makes it way to the cups provided for staff to drink.

The provision of clean and wholesome drinking water is essential; to not do so is to contravene regulations in place to protect the very people you need – your staff.