Reopening a Hotel or B&B After Lockdown? It’s Vital to Risk Assess Your Drinking Water

WaterSafe is advising owners, landlords and managers of hotels and B&Bs that have been empty or under-occupied during lockdown to risk assess their drinking water system before they reopen for business.

Prolonged inactivity can lead to poor water quality and the growth of bacteria, such as legionella, which can be harmful to health when taps get turned on again.

The UK register of approved plumbers, which was set up by UK water companies, is encouraging everyone responsible for hotels, B&Bs, hostels and other accommodation to follow guidance to help protect their drinking water and the health of guests and employees.

This includes advice to ‘flush’ the water system with fresh water to replace all water inside the building’s pipework and appliances.

The guidance, developed by the water industry, highlights the need for a proper plan to recommission water systems before turning the taps back on and welcoming back guests.

Julie Spinks, director of WaterSafe, said: “As UK hotels and B&Bs get ready to reopen their doors, it’s important to consider how stagnant water can be harmful if ignored.

“Given the understandable focus on Covid-19 precautions, we’re reminding guest accommodation owners, managers and landlords that it is the legal duty of those in control of premises to reduce the risks of exposure to legionella bacteria and to make sure their water supplies are safe.

“That’s why we’re advising anyone responsible for a building and its users to follow the water industry guidance to make sure their water systems are healthy and ready for use before reopening.”

The following simple steps will help make sure water is fresh and safe:

  • Run all taps individually, starting with the tap nearest to where the water enters the building and move systematically to the most distant outlet. Run until the water is clear and feels cool to the touch.
  • Where water is stored, storage cisterns should be emptied and filled with water direct from the incoming supply, before flushing the taps.
  • Flushing should be carried out in a way which minimises aerosols (water droplets in the air) e.g. by removing showerheads prior to flushing. This reduces the risks of Legionella transmission.
  • Safety considerations should be given to those doing the flushing, including wearing appropriate PPE.
  • Ensure all appliances are thoroughly flushed through before use, using manufacturer’s instruction manuals e.g. dishwashers, water fountains.
  • If the property has internal filters or water softeners, these should be checked to ensure they are working correctly, as outlined in the manufacturer’s instruction manual.
  • Testing of water systems is easy to organise.

Larger buildings, with storage tanks, showers and more complex pipework, are likely to require more extensive flushing followed by cleaning and disinfection.

Anyone with a complex plumbing system should have a competent person oversee the work.

The guidance advises employing approved plumbers registered with WaterSafe to make changes or repairs. This is because they have specific training in the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations and Scottish Byelaws, to make sure they meet the strict legal requirements for installing water pipes and fittings.

For more information, including a video message for those responsible for hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs from the Water Regulations team at Southern Water, visit: watersafe.org.uk/reopeningbuildings.

For further advice on managing risks associated with Legionella visit: https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/legionella-risks-during-coronavirus-outbreak.htm

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