Testing the waters: Is your office ready for your return?

Health and Safety June 03, 2020

With many businesses trying to get back to some sort of (new) normal, offices and buildings that have been unoccupied or on heavily reduced occupancy will be seeing a higher footprint in the coming weeks and months. When returning to the office, businesses will have a lot to think about in ensuring the safety of all staff, not least keeping people 2 m apart wherever possible, ensuring that all the necessary personal protective equipment is available and implementing more rigorous hygiene measures.

However, there are several less obvious steps (though no less important) that need to be taken to ensure an office or building is safe so staff can return that are not covered by government COVID-19 guidelines or advice. One of these is ensuring that water systems are adequately managed and, if necessary, flushed, disinfected and chlorinated before employees return.

“Closed offices or buildings, or those with reduced occupancy have increased risk of legionella bacteria    growing in water systems if they are not managed properly,” comments RSK Director Mel Fox. “Reduced or no flow in the water system can mean that the water becomes stagnant and a breeding ground for bacteria, including legionella. Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by legionella bacteria and can be serious, so it is essential that managers consider whether their water systems are safe before employees return to work.”

If your office has been shut for less than a month or has been operating but with fewer personnel, it may have been possible to maintain your normal control regime, in which case minimal tests and flushing may be sufficient to ensure the system is safe for a return to an increased or full capacity.

However, if closure has been longer term or more extensive, more thorough flushing, disinfection and chlorination procedures may be necessary. From local authorities to schools, offices to other corporate settings, any building that has a water system could require a review.

“Whatever your situation, RSK can advise on the best way to proceed and ensure that when you open your office doors to more employees, you do so with confidence,” continues Mel. “Businesses have enough on their plates at the moment without having to worry if their water systems are safe, so it is certainly worth getting help from an experienced and competent water treatment adviser if you have any concerns.”

If you require RSK’s services or would like more information, please contact Mel Fox.