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COMBATING COLD WEATHER DAMAGE TO WATER INFRASTRUCTURE

Our team of engineers have seen an increase in damage to water infrastructure since the recent harsh weather conditions. Here Paul Leach, our Pipeline Solutions Manager talks about how businesses can prepare before, during and after the cold weather to prevent significant costs and damage caused by burst pipes.

“I have no doubt that there will have been an increase in water related incidents at business properties due to the ‘beast from the end’ hitting the UK. Waterlines, heating pipes and even sewage pipes have been freezing.

“This can happen anywhere but especially in older buildings, where there’s still a lot of metallic pipe work in use, this pipe material will absorb a lot of the cold air and freeze. With traditional copper water pipes you can try to get heat onto the frozen area using a thawing machine that generates an electric current.

“A lot of newer office/commercial builds, however, use plastic pipe work for their water systems, this is a much better weapon against freezing but please remember that all plastic pipe work should be lagged as an extra layer of protection.

“Incidents will increase when the cold weather moves on, this is mainly due to pipe movement as frozen pipe work thaws, this creates leakage when pipe joints try to return to their original position before freezing but can’t, this is when pipe bursts are common place and can take businesses by surprise.

“There are a number of things that customers can do to minimise internal pipe work damage. Businesses should check the exterior of their buildings, including the flashing and siding, to make sure it’s intact and in good condition. The recent snow and high winds may have caused damage that allows drafts or colder air to get inside. Keep windows closed to prevent drafts.

“Cold will freeze pipes no matter what, but it’s the wind chill that will do the most damage. So on really cold days where the wind’s getting through to the pipe work, that’s where you could experience a major freeze-up.

“Moving water does not freeze, so for pipes prone to freezing leave a tap trickling to keep water running in the system.

“If you are leaving your building unattended, set the heating to come on for short periods every day. If the building is going to be empty for a long time, make sure the key holder makes regular visits to check inside and outside the property.

“The cold weather can cause enough disruption to business, so consider your water infrastructure and make that one less thing to worry about.”

Here are a few extra tips to help prepare business properties for challenging conditions:
•Check any trace heating is operational on any external pipework and inspect during cold spells.
•Ensure any evaporative cooling systems that are in use are circulating at a sufficient temperature not to freeze, and inspect regularly.
•Make sure that chemical storage tanks and associated pipework are adequately protected from freezing.
•If you have any unnecessary or little used processes, drain if possible.
•Have contacts and procedures in place to deal with emergency situations.
•Know where your water meter is and any sub meters so key areas can be identified and quickly shut off.
•If you can, isolate the water supplies to areas which are vulnerable to freezing.
•Repair any dripping taps or overflows
•Find out where the property’s internal stopcock is located and check that it works correctly.
•Consider installing our new AMR system (Automated Meter Reading), our system can warn customers of a burst to their premises almost immediately through our clever software alarms. This alarm can be sent to any device or computer.

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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.

Latest posts

Do you want to take control of all your utility bills?

Automated Meter Reading (AMR) could help your business

Watch the AMR demo
Talk to us today