Ensuring that drinking water equipment is safe requires a high-quality system complemented by a stringent sanitisation regime, says Jason Saville
06 November 2017 | Jason Saville
Specifying drinking water equipment is an important decision for FMs.
Without appropriate mechanisms there is the potential for a proliferation of bacteria and contamination - particularly threatening in a healthcare setting with vulnerable patients.
Below are six crucial considerations for FMs when choosing a system:
Micron filters: By choosing appropriate filters, FMs reduce the chances of bacteria entering the drinking water system while also enhancing the taste of the water. In a healthcare environment we recommend a system with a 0.2-micron filter before water is dispensed through the sanitised nozzle area and a 0.5-micron filter for the mains-fed water inlet. This allows little to no bacteria to travel either way. Filters should be changed every six months.
Self-cleaning nozzle: Water that accumulates at the tap nozzle collects bacteria. Research has shown that after 120 minutes bacteria is liable to travel back up and into the water system. In a hospital this could be very serious. FMs working in the healthcare field should consider a system that heats up the nozzle to 110°C every 90 minutes and prevents bacteria travelling through the dispense nozzle into the cooler itself - acting as a thermal disinfectant. Hospital patients are encouraged to drink at least a litre of water a day, so bacteria risks must be minimised, particularly for those undergoing chemotherapy.
Ice bank refrigeration: Temperature plays a prominent role in the spread of bacteria. It is important to invest in high-performance ice bank refrigeration, which helps water to remain cool and is capable of delivering large quantities of chilled water each hour.
A system with a master control unit (MCU) that pumps water through the building will ensure that it is fresh and reduces the chances of stagnant water, which encourages bacteria growth. This type of system networks drinking water in the same way as the internet would be networked.
Adequately insulating the pipes that distribute the water also minimises the spread of unwanted germs.
Removable dispense nozzle: Whereas a self-cleaning nozzle is necessary in critical care, in a commercial setting a removable dispense nozzle enables appropriate sanitisation. It is recommended that sanitisation is carried out once at the beginning of the day and once at the end using sanitising wipes or spray.
Don't forget to clean the drip tray lid and inside the drip tray using either sanitising wipes or hot soapy water and a non-abrasive cloth. Regularly service systems to stop rust, sludge, and slime developing.
Internet of Things technology: Some systems are equipped with IoT technology to provide filter or service change alerts to both the building's FM and the maintenance team to highlight requirements such as filter changes. Some control management systems (CMS) are designed to monitor the performance of the MCU using IoT technology. The CMS is an essential tool to ensure optimum performance of the system particularly when each MCU controls multiple drinking water dispenser points in one building.
Conclusion: Effective specifying of drinking water equipment can ease the pressure on FMs and leave them confident that staff and guests (or patients) are protected from germs and can stay well hydrated with safe, high-quality drinking water.
If in doubt, consult the company that installed the equipment if it offers this service - or read the wide range of information provided by the Health and Safety Executive and the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers.