Health & Safety Compliance: How Clean is Your Water Cooler?

Water coolers are always set up with the best of intentions: to provide offices, schools and even your home a safe, cold source of drinking water. And while water coolers and filters seem like the cleanest way to drink, it really all boils down to our own setup and handling of the system.

Set up your water cooler the wrong way and/or neglect the system entirely, and you could be better off drinking straight from the tap in the office kitchen. Here’s what you need to know about keeping your water cooler clean.

Work Environment Regulations

If you’re providing a water cooler in a public place, there are certain regulations you need to comply to. According to Safe Work Australia Code of Practice for Managing the Work Environment and Facilities, drinking water should be:

  • Provided free of charge for workers at all time,
  • Positioned where it can be easily accessed by workers
  • Close to where hot or strenuous work is being undertaken to reduce the likelihood of dehydration or heat stress
  • Separate from toilet or washing facilities to avoid contamination of the drinking water

The drinking water should also be chilled at or below 24 degrees Celsius. This can be achieved by:

  • Refrigerating the water or providing non-contaminated ice
  • Shading water pipes and storage containers from the sun

Water should be supplied in a hygienic manner, so that workers do not drink directly from a shared container. This may involve:

  • A drinking fountain, where the water is delivered in an upward jet
  • A supply of disposable or washable drinking containers.

What’s the big takeaway from these regulations? You need to provide water, make it easy to access and keep it cool. A water cooler can help with this. But “supplying it in a hygienic manner” is the one part where many go astray.

Positioning your water dispensers

Positioning and setup are everything if you want to provide clean drinking water for your business. Place your water cooler in a central location where it can easily be accessed by everyone. Don’t put it near a toilet area and never position your water dispenser where the bottle can be exposed to direct sunlight.

Make sure your water dispenser has a drain or drip tray to catch overflowing water and avoid fall hazards from slippery floors. To avoid contamination from water containers, provide disposable cups or cones for users at all times.

One solution to this potential issue is to use plumbed in water coolers. They pump in a direct chilled water supply and avoid issues with bottle rotation.

Cleaning and maintaining your water cooler

Plumbed In Floor Standing

Water dispensers must be cleaned and given proper maintenance to avoid contamination with harmful bacteria, such as E.Coli. One study of water dispensers in the UK found that more than a quarter of them showed bacterial contamination. Dirty water dispensers can lead to an entire office of people going home sick with stomach problems.

You should always clean your water coolers based on the guidelines of the manufacturer, preferably using a broad-spectrum sanitizer. If connected to a tap, this should also be cleaned weekly with a mild detergent. Remember those drip trays you have set up to keep water off the floor? Those should be wiped dry every day to avoid bacterial buildup. Regularly check your water coolers for dust buildup inside the container or in the air ventilation grills.

To ensure your water cooler isn’t neglected, you can make a schedule for regular cleaning, and assign responsibility to someone in your office with knowledge of proper cleaning measures.

Though the best strategy to avoid error and further contamination is to have an agreement with the manufacturer to provide cleaning and maintenance services for the life of the product.

Cleaning, maintenance and filter replacement for filtered systems are provided as part of the standard service for Smarter Waters’ water coolers. Filters are rated for 5000 litres and are replaced twice per year when the system is also fully sanitised with a hand-held steamer.

If you go on holiday or leave the system without using it for more than a week, you should always drain out the remaining water once you return. Never leave a filtered water system without water, as the filter will dry out.

Wrapping up

Keeping your water cooler clean can seem like a simple task. Wipe it down with a sanitizer, what could be easier? But what about the important water contact parts inside?

But in reality, for a business you are focussing on your work. The cleaning and maintenance needs of your water cooler really should be in the hands of a professional service company like Smarter Water. Yes, the safest bet to ensure your water cooler stays clean is to enlist the help of professionals giving you the peace-of-mind that you are drinking from a healthy system.