What’s New in British Water Quality Standards


Over the last couple of years there have been several updates to the British Water Quality standards, with the most recent changes to standards coming into force this year. The Water Management Society recently reviewed these changes during a webinar sponsored by Velappity, a legionella inspection software. This blog post will recap the webinar and outline the recent changes to the British Water Quality Standards to ensure that you are staying up to date with legionella legislation and compliant with industry standards.

The Impact of Standards in the UK

The British Standards Institution produces technical standards on a range of products and services that can make organisations more successful and make people’s lives safer and healthier. Whilst the updates to British Water Standards are important in ensuring water hygiene and safety, the value of Standards within the UK is significant. 73% of companies say that standards allow greater control of environmental problems, which has a substantial effect on how we approach and tackle climate change. In addition to this, 89% of companies say that standards contribute to the optimisation of compliance with regulations such as health and safety legislation, which includes legionella and water hygiene legislation. Standards have a significant impact on how businesses operate, improving both productivity in the way you work, and contributing to the health and safety of people’s lives.

BS8680: 2020. Water quality. Water safety plans. Code of practice.

This is an important standard that has made a significant impact on the water hygiene industry and is also supported by the standard BS8580-1: 2019, Water quality – Risk assessments for Legionella control. The BS8680: 2020 Standard covers all risks from water, both within and out with premises. The update to the standards follows on from the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) “Water Safety in Buildings”, in which it was states that outbreaks often occur as a result of poor management of building water systems. These outbreaks could be prevented through design and application of Water Safety Plans (WSP). A water safety plan is a comprehensive plan that highlights all potential concerns and risks associated with a water system. This standard recommends moving away from what was once a sampling-based approach, to an approach that is based on risk assessments, and putting effective barriers in place to prevent contamination. This approach is focussed on preventing contamination, rather than resolving it once discovered.

The BS8680:2020 standard pulls together all the relevant factors that need to be considered when developing comprehensive water safety plans for building water systems. The standard is applicable to new builds, which is a significant update when considering the building of new healthcare premises such as hospitals. It also applies to small domestic properties with simple systems, as well as complex sites including industrial, academic, and healthcare premises. The standard also includes guidance for the shut down and recommissioning of systems, which is particularly relevant given the recent lockdowns during Covid-19. The standard can be implemented on a proportional basis, depending on the type and size of the premise, but ultimately the goal is for premises to implement a high-level water safety plan which is maintained by documented procedures. The water safety plan should identify risks, such as the levels of bacteria in the water, and how those risks can be eliminated or controlled to within acceptable levels.

Key steps in developing and implementing a water safety plan:

  1. Appoint a competent multidisciplinary water safety group. These need to have the skills that are required depending on the complexity of the types of systems that you have in place.
  2. Create an asset register, which is effectively a description of all water systems and relevant equipment present at the premises.
  3. Carry out a Legionella risk assessment. It is a legal requirement to carry out a legionella risk assessment in any workplace or business connected premise. The risk assessment should look at what you have got in place and what is missing (gap analysis), and should allow you to identify all applicable hazards, potential hazardous events (events that could lead to a potential contamination or an increase in the level of hazard to levels that could cause harm). The four potential hazard areas are biological, radiological, chemical, and physical.

The risk assessment is now at the core of the water safety plan and the quality of the risk assessment will make a difference to how effective your water safety plan is. Velappity includes a ready-made LRA that can be included in your organisations’ water safety plan to ensure you stay compliant in line with the updates to standards.

  1. Implementation, validation, and verification of control measures to make sure that those controls are and remain effective. This should be supported by supplementary programmes, management programmes, governance measures, training, audits, surveillance and communication within your organisation.
BS7592:2022 Sampling for Legionella bacteria in water systems. Code of practice.

This standard has undergone extensive changes, and the new code of practice will be published at the end of the month. The changes include useful additional sections that include sampling for investigations for abrasive contamination, and sampling for commissioning and recommissioning. There are also three new annexes, two of which are normative, which includes sampling to investigate incidents and outbreaks in hotels and other multi-occupancy buildings, and sampling to investigate incidents and outbreaks in hospitals and healthcare. The Informative annex includes guidance on when to use respiratory protective equipment (RPE).

There have also been extensive updates to the guidance surrounding sampling plans:

  • A sampling plan appropriate to the reason for sampling should be prepared and should be based on a site-specific legionella risk assessment. Microbiological sampling is a supplement to a full physical and chemical monitoring programme.
  • Sampling plans should also have sufficient detail to identify outlets to be sampled, for example a schematic diagram.
  • The plans must also include the rationale for sampling and resampling, and the additional parameters to be taken at the time of sampling (e.g. temperature, pH etc) to be agreed with the authorised person.
  • If there is no water safety plan or sampling plan, then a site survey should be carried out to decide where to take samples, taking BS8554 into account.

The updated standards also include updated guidance for BS7582:2020 includes changes for new and refurbished systems, which was a gap in the previous standards. Important points to note regarding the changes to this standard is that each sample should be collected from an individual outlet and samples should not be combined from multiple outlets. If you do so, you reduce the sensitivity of the testing and if you receive a positive result, you will need to retest all outlets individually again which takes up a significant amount of time.

Checks should also be made on the types of analysis carried out to make sure that they are sufficiently precise, repeatable, sensitive, and specific, and if you are moving to field testing, then you should make sure the tests are completed with the same rigour as they would in a lab to ensure the result is valid.

Another change, which can be viewed as an improvement from a public health perspective, is that portable water tanks should not be opened for routine sampling. This is as there is a great risk of you introducing dust and debris off the lid when you are taking samples. Therefore, for routine purposes you should take the sample from a dedicated sample valve or from the nearest outlet to the tank. If you get a positive result, you may therefore need to go back and test the tank directly but will need to avoid contamination.

The new standards also include updated information and changes to routine sampling for hot water, bringing the standards into line with HSG274. This takes into account multi loop systems and hot water storage.

The updates to sampling documents are significant, therefore it is important to make sure your processes are up to date to consider the changes within the new standards. More information on the updates to this standard can be found when the standard is published shortly.

BS8580-2 2022: Water quality risk assessments for Pseudomonas aeruginosa and other waterborne pathogens. Code of practice.

A Pseudomonas aeruginosa risk assessment cannot be carried out solely by contractor in a healthcare premises, it needs the input of a multi disciplinary team to carry out an effective risk assessment. This standard gives recommendations and guidance on how to carry out risk assessments for Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and there is also information on nontuberculous micro bacteria (an organism of increasing concern particularly in healthcare). Other waterborne pathogens such as other Gram-Negative bacteria, you would carry out the risk assessment following the Pseudomonas aeruginosa risk assessments format, but also taking account of the ecological niches. These risk assessments are not carried out routinely but are based on clinical surveillance that indicates an outbreak. This standard is applicable to all types of healthcare provision, and is applicable in education, travel, leisure, and commercial premises where there are additional systems or equipment that could pose a risk of waterborne pathogens. The standard also includes above ground drainage systems, which wouldn’t typically be included in a legionella risk assessment, but they are a rich source of waterborne pathogens which can cause infections particularly in healthcare settings.

Using a legionella inspection software such as Velappity allows you to be flexible and adapt to these changes in legislation. Velappity allows you to easily make changes to existing forms and risk assessments to make sure your inspections are up to date and in line with the legislation to ensure you are staying compliant. Using a digital approach for managing compliance can improve efficiency and as a direct result, save you time and money.

If you are interested in seeing how Velappity can transform your business, sign up for your free trial and start reaping the benefits of a digital risk assessment solution.

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