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The importance of proactivity in identifying and fixing maintenance issues

Maintenance issues in a water system can often go undetected for long periods of time. Whether it’s a leak, faulty appliances or rusty, dirty pipes, maintenance issues when left unrectified can lead to huge costs for your business, environmental damage and potentially fatal illness.

Being proactive in your water system maintenance can not only reduce your business’s costs in the long run, it will also protect your reputation and the people who use your site.

Save Money

The most obvious reason to be proactive with water maintenance issues is that in the long run, the costs you will save by staying on top of maintenance far outweigh any investment it may require.

Leaks are a huge drain on money.

Even a small 5 litre per minute leak can add up to £5000 on your yearly water bill. On top of the increased water usage, leaks that are left for long periods of time can worsen, causing the repair work to grow more costly.

Leaking water can cause damage to your business’s premises, sometimes even major foundational and structural damage, which will result in considerable repair costs and could even force your business to close whilst the damage is fixed. Serious leaks can also cause disruption to your water supply, which may result in loss of operation for your business while it is resolved.

By ensuring that your water system is in good condition and keeping a close watch for any unexplained increases in water usage – or water being used when no one is on site – will allow you to identify any leaks quickly and minimise the cost to your business. Investing in Automated Meter Reading (AMR) technology will allow you to receive live usage data and help you identify a leak quickly and before too much damage can be done.

Protect the Environment

As well as the costs a maintenance issue can incur to your business, poor maintenance of your water system can also affect the environment.

Businesses have a corporate social responsibility to save water and ensure their operations are streamlined to minimise water wastage. Recent figures show that water scarcity is a pressing global problem, and experts warn that the hot weather in summer of 2018 could lead to droughts and water restrictions being put in place in Spring 2019.

Businesses that ensure their water system is well maintained and water wastage through leaks or low-efficiency appliances is minimised can be sure that they’re not only protecting their business by not contributing to water shortages, but are also fulfilling their environmental responsibilities.

It’s also worth considering that in the event of water restrictions being put in place, businesses that are found to be wasting large amounts of water are unlikely to be particularly popular. So not only does good maintenance save money and protect the environment, it also protects your business’s public reputation.

A water audit conducted by an expert can identify numerous ways that your business can save more water and suggest low-cost, high-impact solutions for streamlining your system and reducing your water wastage.

Ensure your site users’ safety

Maintenance issues are not restricted to leaks. A well-maintained water system is not only free from physical damage, but also free from unused or unnecessary stretches of piping or conditions that encourage the growth of harmful bacteria such as legionella. Being proactive in reducing the risk of legionella is not only a legal obligation, it is also important for the protection of your business’s staff and building users.

Legionella is a bacteria that, when inhaled, can lead to potentially fatal cases of Legionnaire’s disease. It grows in water, and thrives in certain conditions, including areas of water that are left to stand, water that is kept between 20 and 45°C and water that contains rust, organic matter or biofilm.

It is therefore important to ensure that your business undergoes a legionella risk assessment regularly and is proactive in the maintenance of its water system. This includes removing any unnecessary stretches of pipe so that water cannot be left to stagnate and ensuring water systems and appliances are clean and free of rust and organic matter. The initial investment of streamlining and cleaning your water system is miniscule when compared to the legal costs and loss of reputation should any health issues occur due to poor maintenance.

Take Control of Your Water Maintenance Today

Whether you want to save money, protect the environment or are worried about the safety of your water system, our experts can help. From helping you identify leaks and streamlining your system to ensuring your business is free from Legionella, we can offer advice, carry out audits and complete any maintenance works your business requires.

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Legionella Checklist: Is Your Business Up to Date?

By law, businesses need to ensure that staff, customers and building users are protected from the risks posed by Legionella bacteria. Legionella bacteria can, when inhaled, cause potentially fatal cases of Legionnaires Disease, and the responsibility for minimising the risk of this happening falls on businesses, landlords and building owners.

If you’re not sure whether your business has covered all the bases for legionella compliance, our quick checklist will help you understand your current status, and the next steps to make sure your business is safe and compliant.

First things first…

1. Have your building(s) got a valid Legionella Risk Assessment?

A Legionella Risk Assessment involves checking your water system for conditions in which legionella bacteria will thrive. This includes standing water, fittings that produce spray or aerosol which can be inhaled, water that contains rust, organic matter or biofilm, and water that is kept between 20 and 45°C.

By law, businesses must have a legionella risk assessment carried out on their property. If you do not have proof of a risk assessment carried out by a competent assessor, it’s very important that you get one arranged as soon as possible.

2. Is your risk assessment up to date?

Legally, legionella risk assessments need to be accurate and kept up to date. However, we would always recommend an annual review to be certain that your water system does not cause harm to any building users.

3. Have there been any changes to your water system since your last risk assessment?

If you’ve made changes to your system, risk assessment review will be required. This is to ensure that the changes you have made will not increase the risk of legionella in your system, and ensure your business remains compliant with the relevant health and safety legislation (Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) or the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (1994).

After your risk assessment…

4. Have the relevant remedial works been carried out?

Your risk assessment may identify areas in which your water system needs to be altered to ensure that legionella risk is minimised. These changes should be implemented as soon as possible by qualified professionals. Once these changes have been made, it’s important to arrange a risk assessment review to ensure that the works have solved the identified issues.

5. Are your team aware of the required legionella management procedures?

Your risk assessment should also point out management processes that need to be maintained. This may include ensuring outlets such as showers and taps are used regularly to reduce the risk of standing water where bacteria can build up. To ensure your staff maintain these processes, staff awareness training is recommended to ensure any potential risks can be spotted.

6. Are you maintaining compliance throughout the year?

In order to ensure your business is compliant with legislation and your building users are protected from the risk of legionella, detailed records of your legionella management processes need to be kept and regular maintenance of your water system needs to be carried out. Risk assessments need to be carried out on all water systems and reviewed regularly to ensure any changes are documented and that the control measures remain effective.

Total Water Solutions’ expert Legionella team are qualified and experience in carrying out legionella risk assessments, remedial work, training and maintenance. For more information, or to book a service, get it in touch.

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Desktop Audit

All businesses will be familiar with the concept of regular audits, as they are required in a multitude of areas to ensure there is less waste, less cost, and a more proactive approach to day-to-day productivity. However, it may not be the first thing on your mind when starting your journey toward being totally water efficient.

Every robust business plan starts with a well thought out strategy, and water efficiency is no exception. By taking the time to have a high-level examination of current policies, procedures, and equipment in the form of a desktop audit. You can identify potential changes, enabling  a methodical approach to seamlessly engraining water efficiency into your culture.

Of course, investing the time and the money in a full review of current procedural documentation, discussing and finalising appropriate actions, and disseminating these to staff is not something to be entered into lightly. However, there are a number of tangible benefits of starting with a high-level review that will make it more than worth the effort required.

It will allow you to take stock

For most businesses, policy and procedure documents and functioning equipment are rarely reviewed, and this can lead to them being out of date and not fit for purpose. They may not, for example, include changes in regulation, or reflect if physical systems have been upgraded.

A desktop audit helps to identify gaps in data and any billing problems. Once these issues have been recognised, the company can take measures to fill those gaps, by taking more meter readings or looking at water use in other areas of the business, and examining where these can be reduced.

It will allow you to get organised

The high level overview aspect of a desktop audit means that you can quickly see the highlights and the red flags of where the business is. It will also quickly establish the most urgent updates as well as the issues that can wait.

The audit will give an accurate first impression of what the opportunities are, and what is most necessary, so you can plan future work, prioritise the most essential requirements, and begin saving money immediately.

It will allow you to understand a full audit

A smaller, less detailed desktop audit can give you a taster of what is offered in a full water audit. Total Water Solutions is able to conduct these audits, and offer advice and guidance to firms to help them be more water efficient.

Having a better understanding of what a full water audit covers with little investment of time can help you establish whether it’s the right option to go for.

It could save you time

The desktop audit might well solve your water efficiency problems without needing to conduct a full audit. The quick check over your current working procedures or equipment could identify where changes could be made and the journey to total efficiency can begin right away.

Some of the tweaks and tune ups that could be quick wins for your business may be flagged up immediately, and you may then decide that this negates the need for a full audit. If you change your mind, you can always request a full audit at a later date.

It will allow you to make water efficiency part of the culture

Spending a little time conducting an audit will help to focus attention on the problem of water efficiency by including it on the agenda as part of a systematic process, rather than seeing it as an ad hoc event.

It is easy to only look at efficiency when there is a problem, for example a large bill or a broken pipe, however by conducting an audit, you may be able to identify where savings can be made before you reach the crisis point, and make this part of your routine.

 

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Saving Water by Concentrating on the Small Things

We naturally take our water for granted in this country, which is famed around the world for its inclement weather.

Therefore, most people don’t think twice of leaving the tap running as they brush their teeth; select a longer washing machine cycle than required or switching on a half-filled dishwasher.

The changing nature of the climate was reflected in this extended summer’s heatwave which left the levels of reservoirs in some areas of the country at worryingly low levels.

One drip from a leaky tap accounts for around 0.25ml of water. Not much, I know, but if a badly warn washer causes that tap to drip once per second, that turns into 15ml per minute, 900ml per hour or 21.6 litres per day – the equivalent of 29 bottles of wine.

Every day more than 17 billion litres enters the country’s water supply system to serve both households and businesses.

In 1830, one person would have used 18 litres per day. Today every person in the UK uses an average of 150 litres a day – much of it heated – for everything from drinking to washing and flushing the loo.

Multiply all the losses emanating from the nation’s dripping taps and leaking pipes and factor in all the unnecessary use and suddenly the water waste is shockingly high.

A traditional flush toilet uses 13 litres of water per flush, a washing machine 70, a five minute shower 35 and the average soak in the bath, 150 litres of water.

There are a whole host of ways in which we can either invest in more efficient technology or use a variety of water saving gadgets. Perhaps the most effective is simply to change the wasteful habits of a lifetime.

For example, using a pressure washer to clean the car will use around 600 litres of water per hour – which means even a two minute blast disposes of 20 litres. An average hosepipe uses up to 1,000 litres per hour

It‘s a much better idea to hand wash the car using a sponge, which often yields a cleaner finish. A typical car can easily be hand washed and rinsed using 20 litres of water.

Likewise, an efficient dishwasher will use about 11 litres of water per wash for a full load, although it’s debatable whether washing by hand saves on that amount.

A typical kitchen sink holds around 20 litres but this doesn’t take into account those who change the water part way through or rinse afterwards.

While dishwashers can be water efficient, the advice is to soak heavily soiled dishes first and scrape large food items into the bin.

One dishwasher load per day at 11 litres equates to 4,015 litres per year. Doing the dishes in the sink could use 7,300 litres per year.

Even if you are unconcerned at an environmental level, the resulting cost is substantial to households, businesses and industry.

For example, a modern Monobloc basin mixer tap uses four to five litres per minute. If the tap is left 20 per cent open it runs at a litre per minute – which is 60 litres per hour or 1,140 litres per day.

A leak of the same size from a business or industrial site uses the same amount of water which costs an estimated £1.87 per day for a leak of one litre per minute.

This also assumes that only one leak has occurred, however large sites have potential for multiple leaks.

We should also consider that some leaks can be at one litre per second, which is 60 times greater in both water loss and cost.

Some leaks which have gone unnoticed or ignored at small commercial premises can cost as much as £4,000 per year while a leak at a major manufacturing site easily costs £10,000. A large leak could potentially pour £20,000 straight down the financial drain.

By saving water, you will also save money, energy, cut carbon dioxide emissions and in doing so protect the environment for future generations.

We must all stop taking our water supply for granted and begin to think of it as a very precious resource which needs to be carefully managed and conserved.

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Top five ways of reducing contamination in wastewater

According to recent statistics from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, more than 11 billion litres of wastewater are collected every day in UK sewers. This water is then treated by water treatment plants, including those managed by Total Water Solutions, before it is returned to the ecosystem, and any solid matter or contamination is safely disposed of, or used to create alternative energy. Without treatment, wastewater could be potentially hazardous to wildlife, or indeed humans and potentially the environment as a whole.

Households and businesses can all take action to reducing contamination in wastewater, as this reduces the risk of sewers becoming blocked, and improves the quality of water across the UK and helps maintain the longevity of the waste water systems.

Contaminated wastewater can also increase business costs, as additional work carried out by water companies to treat sewage will incur extra costs. In fact, it can hit four times over, in the cost of the mains water, the cost of the effluent volume, the cost of solids in the Mogden formula (the calculation used to find the required charges to collect, treat and dispose of industrial wastewater) and the cost of Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD).

 

  1. Keep solids and contaminated items out of the drain

This includes solids, hazardous chemicals, medicines, and toxic materials. Solids should always be swept or vacuumed before they reach the drain, as they can cause blockages if they are flushed. This will also protect equipment, as particularly large solids can cause damage. Chemicals, medicines and toxins can affect the quality of water, even when it has been treated, and could potentially be poisonous. Instead, these should be disposed of correctly, with the business providing separate, specialist bins for chemical waste, medical waste and toxic materials.

 

  1. Install oil interceptors where needed

Capture oil and grease before it goes down the drain as it can build up and cause blockages in the sewerage systems, preventing the water from completing its journey to the treatment plant. Oil interceptors efficiently separate oil from any wastewater by passing it through a number of chambers, trapping the oil to be disposed of safely by a professional company.

 

  1. Only treat what you need to treat

Not all waste products need to be treated, as this will be a costly exercise for many businesses. Make sure that some discretion is applied when deciding what should go down the drain, to avoid unnecessary treatment and charges. Liquid waste can be segregated into a separate vessel from sediment, suspended solids, and other waste that it is not beneficial to treat. By separating effluent material prior to disposing of the waste, the water can be treated more directly and at a lower cost that the treatment plant separating it afterward.

 

  1. Reuse and Recycle

If the wastewater will not be harmful to the environment, you may consider reusing it as opposed to sending it for treatment immediately. It could be used for washing vehicles (although care should be taken to ensure any grit or solids have been removed to avoid scratches), watering plants and greenery, or rinsing external areas. This additional usage of the water will reduce the volume of effluent that needs to be treated and paid for.

 

  1. Monitor your wastewater

Keep accurate records of the volume and composition of wastewater, including when there are higher volumes of solids, chemicals, and other contamination. This means the business can identify peak periods where wastewater will need to be processed more substantially. A plan can then be drawn up to reduce this waste by refining manufacturing processes and introducing training to highlight how to reduce contamination during peak times.

 

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Ensuring Compliance with Health and Safety

Every business has a legal responsibility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its employees, customers, or tenants.

For low-risk businesses like offices, health and safety can be a simple process. However, for businesses in other sectors there are a much wider range of issues to consider, particularly in terms of water compliance, and it can be challenging to stay up to date with these.

The risks of non-compliance are also high. There’s real potential for people to become ill if standards aren’t maintained, as well as legal and reputational consequences for businesses who do not meet the required standards.

Health and Safety Areas to Consider

Some of the water health and safety risks that you might need to act on include:

Water hygiene

Mains water is treated to be clean and safe for drinking. However, in some circumstances your business may be required to carry out additional water quality testing to make sure that your supply is up to standard. This is particularly important if your organisation has responsibility for vulnerable individuals, for example if you’re a healthcare organisation or a housing association.

Your business’s water infrastructure, such as pipes and tanks, could become a source of contamination if they’re not correctly maintained. Regular bacteriological testing as well as chlorination can help to manage this risk and prevent any problems.

Legionella

Every business has a responsibility to manage the risk of a legionella outbreak. While legionella occurs naturally at low levels in clean water, maintenance or infrastructure problems can provide a breeding ground where the bacteria could grow to dangerous levels. An outbreak can cause serious illness or even prove fatal, so regulations on legionella control should be high priority.

A legionella risk assessment can identify any areas of your business’s water infrastructure where the bacteria might be able to multiply. Simple changes and hygiene processes can then be put in place to prevent this from occurring.

Ensuring Health and Safety Compliance

To ensure your company stays on top of changing legislation and provides a safe environment for your employees and customers, there are a few steps to follow:

Conduct Thorough Risk Assessments

A risk assessment is the first stage of any business’s health and safety responsibilities. Risk assessment is the process of examining your business’s operations, working practices and equipment, and identifying any situations which could pose a risk to the health and safety of the people who are involved.

Getting risk assessments right is the key to ensuring that your water health and safety practices are fully compliant. The risk assessment will indicate what maintenance your water systems need and identify and remedial actions that need to be taken. It’s also important to ensure that they are kept up to date. If your processes change, new equipment is brought in, or new working practices are established, this could introduce new risks, so it’s important to conduct a new risk assessment.

Keep on top of changing legislation

Health and safety legislation and best practice changes regularly to reflect changes in industry practices or in available equipment to manage risk. It’s important that your company is aware of any changes that might affect them well in advance, so that you’re able to update your policies accordingly.

If your business is low-risk, such as an office, it’s quite possible that you’ll be able to stay on top of changing legislation yourself. However, if you’re in heavy industry or another higher-risk sector, the number of regulations you’ll be subject to is much higher, so an outside consultant might be better placed to help you stay up to date.

Maintain regular communication with your team

If you employ more than five people, your business has a legal responsibility to consult with employees on Health and Safety. While risk assessments will tell you a lot about the potential risks in your workplace, it’s important to also maintain regular communication with your team. As the people most familiar with your operations, they’re perfectly placed to advise you on risks that haven’t been identified, or procedures that aren’t working as well as they should be.

Put the right monitoring processes in place

No matter how carefully thought-through your health and safety processes are, their success depends on how well they’re implemented. Procedures are useless if they aren’t followed correctly, so ensuring compliance is a major priority for all businesses. Regular monitoring is a good way of ensuring that standards are being maintained. Monitoring doesn’t have to be complicated – even a simple checklist could give you the confidence that your policies are being implemented correctly.

Keep Your Business Compliant with TWS

At its heart, Health and Safety legislation is based on simple principles. However, getting the right processes, equipment and checks in place to fulfil your business’s responsibilities can be challenging.

TWS offers a range of services to help your business stay compliant with environmental health legislation, and maintain a safe working environment for your employees.

To find out more about our services, read our case studies or contact us.

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