As a hotel proprietor, you have a lot of responsibilities, the biggest of which is ensuring the safety and well-being of everyone in your hotel, not just the customers using the facilities, but also the staff.  As you know, there are plenty of legal responsibilities that come with running a hotel.  You have to make sure your hotel has adequate fire escapes and alarms, you need to make sure the kitchen adheres to food and safety regulations and you HAVE to make sure your water tank is well-maintained and kept clean and free from bacteria.

The Legal Bit

Just like you have to adhere to fire and safety regulations, or food standard regulations, you also have to make sure you adhere to the water supply regulations too.   In fact, it is your legal duty as a hotel proprietor to make sure the drinking water in your hotel is safe for both your customers and your staff.  Failure to do so could lead to your customers and/or staff falling ill, which could result in a lawsuit.

The water fitting regulations came into effect in the UK in July 1999.  According to these regulations, owners and occupiers of premises and anyone who installs plumbing systems or water fittings, have a legal duty to ensure that the water system satisfies regulations. As a hotel owner, you are legally responsible for ensuring:

  • That your plumbing system is installed and maintained in compliance with the water supply regulations.
  • That your drinking water does not become contaminated.

Now you know your legal responsibilities, let’s see how you can make sure your drinking water is clean and safe.

When should you clean your water tank?

There is no exact measure for this, it isn’t a case of this is something you need to do weekly or monthly, but you do need to use a little common sense here. If your water system is in heavy use, you’ll need to clean it more often.

There are other occasions that demand your water system be cleaned and disinfected. These include:

  1. After a routine inspection and risk assessment has been highlighted that the water system needs to be cleaned. This could be the result of a number of things, including stagnant water, biofilm, sediment, corrosion, growth of flora or animal contamination
  2. Whenever your water system has undergone substantial changes (even if it is only a part of the water system). This includes repair work and maintenance, anything that could potentially result in contamination.
  3. If there is an outbreak (or a suspected outbreak) of Legionellosis.

What is Legionellosis?

According to HSE: “legionellosis is a collective term for diseases caused by legionella bacteria including the most serious Legionnaires’ disease, as well as the similar but less serious conditions of Pontiac fever and Lochgoilhead fever.”

The bacteria Legionella pneumophila (and its related bacteria) is a bacteria that is found in natural water sources, including rivers, lakes and reservoirs, as well as purpose-built water systems, this includes hot and cold water systems, spa pools, cooling towers and evaporative condensers.  While this bacteria is found in natural sources of water, it’s usually so low that it is completely harmless. Most outbreaks occurring from exposure to legionella, can be traced back to purpose-built systems, in which water is maintained at a temperature that is high enough to encourage growth of the bacteria.

The risk of this bacteria forming is increased in circumstances where:

  • the water temperature is between 20-45 °C, in all or some parts of the system.
  • breathable water droplets can be created and dispersed, for example in water outlets or a cooling tower.
  • water is stored and/or re-circulated
  • things are deposited into the water that support bacterial growth, this includes things like rust and sludge, organic matters and biofilms.

Cleaning and disinfecting your water tank

Now you know why you need to make sure your water tank is clean, well-maintained and disinfected. But how do you do it?  The simple answer is, you don’t.  As part of the regulations, you have to abide by, any and all work must be carried out by a certified plumber, someone who knows exactly what they are doing and can test the water to make sure that there are no traces of the bacteria after the tank has been fully cleaned.

To make sure your water tank is properly cleaned and disinfected you need to use the services of a certified water management company, one that you know is reputable and has all the necessary certifications to do the work.

Don’t be afraid to shop around, there are a number of water management companies you can use, but not all of them will be legitimate and this is one area where you don’t want to skimp on price.  Let the reputation of the water management company supersede their prices if only to avoid a potential lawsuit in the future.