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Stay safely hydrated

Author : Phillipa Atkinson-Clow

29 June 2012

Phillipa Atkinson-Clow

Phillipa Atkinson-Clow guides FMs through the issues around providing those ‘water cooler’ moments

The average British worker drinks around five cups of tea or coffee daily - that is 48,000 cups of caffeinated liquid during their working life. Asked why? Nearly 6 out of 10 (58%) people said this was because of habit, with less than a quarter of those asked saying they drink caffeinated beverages at home. A third (36% ) said it was to socialise with others during short breaks away from their desks.

Keeping workforces hydrated is important and soft services, including catering, vending and offering drinks in a variety of other ways falls within the remit of Facilities Managers. FMs need to consider the optimum physical and mental health in the workplace of employees whether this be the result of the building fabric or the facilities provided. But FMs can guide those choices to the good of the employees and taking cost and efficiency savings into account also.

Hydration in the workplace should not be overlooked. Most importantly, the provision of safe, sustainable and inexpensive hydration is very much the role of a good facilities manager.

There is immense value to companies and organisations to be gained by delivering safe, cool, instantly available and calorie-free hydration via water coolers. Water coolers provide the sociability that the survey we cited shows workers want – those moments away from the desk to chat with colleagues and, for desk workers, those short walks that keep your circulation flowing and rest tired eyes and backs by changing position away from a screen. Importantly, water coolers also ensure that workers aren’t consuming endless caffeine; are enjoying optimum hydration with no added calories; and aren’t endlessly boiling kettles full of more water than they need and consuming both their time and needless electricity in the process.

But if responsible employers are providing water coolers it is important to be aware that not all water coolers are equal. Those managing the workplace or public places must take their duty of care very seriously. Hydration is well and good but of over-riding importance is providing that water safety and scrupulous hygiene is vital.

Just as you would only use approved suppliers to fit electrical appliances, remove asbestos from old buildings or check carefully who is tampering with your building’s IT systems, you need to ensure that your water cooler provider is at the top of its profession too. Your employers or clients probably check that their FM team is a member of a recognised professional association and in turn you should check the credentials of your water cooler supplier. BWCA Members undergo rigorous training to ensure they are up to date with the latest regulations and hygiene issues.

By using a member of the British Water Cooler Association building owners or managers can be assured that the cooler water they provide is entirely safe and sustainable. When it comes to supplying water, like any foodstuff, guarantees of safety are essential for compliance.

It is important for FMs to know that the BWCA is not a cosy members’ club; on the contrary, as an Association we conduct Audits and monitor members to ensure that standards of excellence are maintained. Companies require this monitoring to be granted membership in the first place and then assured of their continued membership and accreditation. We have the ability to strike off anyone who doesn’t comply. It’s not left to hope and trust.

Phillipa Atkinson-Clow is General Manager of the British Water Cooler Association.

Checklist for bottled cooler water
Ask your supplier or prospective supplier some key questions:
• Where is your water sourced?
• Is the source protected and tested regularly?
• Is the bottling plant registered as food premises?
• What kind of hygiene training do staff members receive?
• Can you tell us about your production, storage, cleaning and transport?
• Describe your process for ensuring empty bottles have not been tampered with.
• What pest control do you have in place?
• How are your full bottles stored before and during delivery?
This is not an exhaustive list and of course other equally crucial questions apply to providers of POU (mains-fed) coolers.

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