Drinking water at work law: What are the regulations?

We are all aware that keeping hydrated is good for us, and as an employer, you probably want to encourage your workforce to be healthy. However, there are actually legal requirements around the provision of water in the workplace that every business needs to be aware of.

It might seem like common sense, but there are laws that employers need to adhere to in order to keep their workforce safe, healthy and provided for. So, are your business hydration efforts going swimmingly or are they more of a damp squib?

What are your legal requirements?

If your employees are required to carry out any kind of physical labour, or work in hot conditions, they will obviously need to take on water at frequent intervals, but this does not mean that air-conditioned office workers do not also need their share. The laws surrounding drinking water apply to all staff, no matter where they might work.

Providing clean drinking water for your staff is part of your health and safety remit, and it must be available, clean, free from contamination, unlimited and easily accessible. There must also be hygienic receptacles for this, such as washable glasses or disposable cups. Alternatively, the water can also come from a drinking fountain.

The Workplace Regulation 1992 recognises that “wholesome drinking water” can come from a mains supply, bottled water or water dispensing systems and it must be clearly marked as drinking water.

Employees must be allowed to drink whenever they need to, and the water provided must be free from microorganisms, parasites, dangerous substances, substances which react with other elements or concentrations of nitrates above a particular limit.

Adding a water cooler or bottled water vending machine is one way to ensure that your drinking water source is away from hazards and contaminants, as they can be positioned anywhere that you need, unlike sinks and taps which are reliant on the pipes you have in place and can be difficult to relocate.

Corporate Social Responsibility

As an employer, you are required to follow the letter of the law, but that does not mean that your responsibilities should go no further than this.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) shows a commitment to the community’s social and environment concerns and tackling issues such as climate change is seen as a huge part of this. The way you provide water to your workforce can have an impact on your CSR, as conserving water is an important factor in environmental commitments. Treating water and pumping it around the country is chemical-intensive and not energy efficient, so using different drinking water supplies can help to reduce your carbon footprint.

Access to clean drinking water is recognised by the United Nations as a basic human right, and that is why an adequate provision of it in the workplace is so important. Water improves health and brain function and is another step towards a full health and safety provision in the workplace, so it is important that all employers are aware of their responsibilities.

If you are interested in having a water cooler, bottled water machine or water dispenser in your workplace, please contact our team today to see how we can help.

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