"Employers must realise that the provision of drinking water isnt a nice to have, but a basic necessity, and those failing to do so could face heavy penalties as a result."
Many employers who don’t make clean drinking water and containers available to their employees do not realise they are breaking the law, a leading solicitor has claimed.
James Barker from Kirwans law firm said that throughout the year, but particularly as the weather heats up, it is vital for employers to provide drinking water for their workers in order to comply with the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.
The legislation sets out that employers must provide basic welfare rights, such as drinking water, to employees – a requirement that some employers still aren’t aware exists, according to James.
He said: “Making clean and wholesome drinking water readily accessible to employees is an absolute must at any time of the year, but in the summer it becomes crucial.
“The Regulations state that an ‘adequate supply of wholesome drinking water’ must be provided, taking into account the temperature of the working environment and types of work activity, and that it must be readily available at suitable and clearly marked places, either with a supply of suitable cups or as a drinking fountain.
“It must also be free from contamination and preferably from the public water supply, although water dispensers are considered acceptable as a secondary supply.”
Drinking water does not have to be marked unless there is a significant risk of people drinking non-drinking water.
Hydration in the workplace has been identified as having a tangible effect on productivity, with studies showing that dehydration reflected in a 1-2% reduction in body weight can reduce our ability to concentrate, our cognitive and physical performance, and increase feelings of aggression or irritation.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends that men take in 2.5 litres of water per day through food and drink consumption, while women are advised to consume two litres of water per day. Between 70-80% of the daily water intake should come from drinks.
James said: “The provision of water seems like a straightforward-enough process, but the Approved Code of Practice also sets out important regulatory requirements.
“For example, drinking water taps should not be installed in places where contamination is likely, such as workshops where lead is handled or processed, and as far as is reasonably practical, they should not be installed in sanitary accommodation.
“If supplying non-disposable cups, facilities for washing them should be provided nearby.
“Finally, any cold-water supplies that are likely to be grossly contaminated, as in the case of supplies meant for process use only, should be clearly marked by a suitable sign.
“Employers must realise that the provision of drinking water isn’t a ‘nice to have’, but a basic necessity, and those failing to do so could face heavy penalties as a result.”