The results of a recent survey of the construction industry by Unite (Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members) found that construction sites in the UK may be regularly falling short of expected welfare standards.
Of concern was the finding that 17% of construction sites in Britain and Ireland had no access to drinking water. The survey also found that 18% of respondents’ workplaces did not have adequate toilet facilities and 51% did not have any showers.
Following the results of the survey, Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail commented that: “Providing toilets and washing facilities is not a luxury they are a basic human right. This survey must act as a wake-up call to the construction industry. In the 21st century, there is no excuse for any workplace not to provide clean and decent welfare facilities.”
These are significant statistics, and while individuals and organisations in the construction sector will be well aware of their obligations and may be concerned with perceived red tape and mounting costs, the findings will likely prompt more careful consideration of site welfare needs in the future.
The Health & Safety Executive Drinking Water Guidelines (applicable to all ‘notifiable’ construction works; those that are due to last more than 30 days or involve more than 500-person days of work) state that ‘wholesome drinking water’ and adequate welfare facilities must be provided on site. But what constitutes ‘wholesome drinking water’ and who is responsible for providing it?
According to the H&SE guidelines, commercial clients (i.e. the client and their family do not live in the building under construction) must ensure that contractors have made arrangements to provide adequate welfare facilities for construction workers. This does not mean that they have to provide the facilities themselves, but they must ensure that construction work (including demolition) does not start until suitable welfare facilities are in place.
Construction Design and Management (CDM) coordinators should give suitable and sufficient advice to the client on the measures needed to ensure that adequate welfare is provided during the construction phase. Principal contractors should make sure that appropriate welfare facilities are in place from the start and are maintained throughout the construction phase, and in all cases, contractors should ensure that there are adequate welfare facilities for workers under their control.
A supply of ‘wholesome drinking water’ should be readily available, protected from possible contamination and replenished often enough to prevent it from becoming stale or contaminated.
But what does ‘wholesome drinking water’ mean and why it is important?
Sven Parris, Senior Sales & Marketing Manager at Water Direct explains: “‘Wholesome drinking water means water that is suitable for human consumption as defined in law, by specific parameters for a wide range of substances including micro-organisms, chemicals (such as nitrate and pesticides), metals (such as lead and copper), and the way water looks and tastes.”
“This is important because when you’re providing a water supply for public consumption, staff, contractors, visitors or discharge into the environment, you are accountable for the quality of the water delivered. Simply hiring a bowser and sourcing an untested local supply could lead to health problems, additional cost and damage to reputation.”
“‘Quality assured’ means that the water has been maintained to the desired level using sampling and recording at every stage of the process of collection, storage and delivery.”
“Our vessels have only ever been used for drinking water, and we use only drinking-water-approved equipment and fittings; each vessel is uniquely identifiable, and a maintenance, movement, fill and discharge record is available for each.”
“As the UK’s leading specialist in the transport, storage and distribution of quality assured drinking water, Water Direct offers its clients peace of mind that the water being supplied is quality assured and fully compliant. We can provide certification, water source analysis and equipment maintenance records as required.”
Water Direct’s working practices conform to BS 8551:2015 Provision & Management of Temporary Water Supplies and Distribution Networks Code of Practice. This standard gives guidance on the provision of temporary water supplies and wholesomeness of the water supplied to construction sites as well as festivals and events where it is the responsibility of site managers and event organisers to ensure a safe and wholesome drinking water supply is available.
All Water Direct technicians undertake rigorous training in line with industry best practices and hold the National Water Hygiene Scheme Card (accredited by the Energy & Utility Skills Register). This is a requirement for anyone working on ‘Restricted Operations’, which are defined as working with treated or partially treated sources of drinking water or sources of untreated underground water.
In addition to water for welfare, Water Direct has served the construction sector on a daily basis for 22 years with bulk water supplies for site processes such as concrete batching, grouting, dust suppression, wheel washing, drilling and landscaping. The company has worked with many of the largest construction companies in the UK and remains the preferred choice of supplier to the construction sector nationwide providing water for a range of services and procedures.
“As well as being able to supply a site with drinking water, we can connect our static tanks to site welfare units, ensuring a clean supply to showers, toilets, hand washing and kitchen facilities, ensuring our clients meet the welfare facility needs of the modern-day construction site, and demonstrate a commitment to the health and safety of their employees,” concludes Sven.