Drinking Water at Work – What Employees & Employers Need to Know 2018
Already this summer we’ve experienced sweltering temperatures, and it looks like there may be even more to come…
As the mediterranean conditions continue, gradually more and more of us are wondering how to stay cool and hydrated at work, but what are your legal rights? Can you demand water in the workplace? Is your boss preventing you from drinking water at work? Maybe you’re an employer concerned about the welfare of your staff? Or maybe you’re concerned about the impact of dehydration on the productivity of your staff? After all, keeping hydrated is essential to maintaining maximum output.
No matter the nature of your concern, we’ve compiled a list of common questions about your right to water in the workplace to give you some guidance. We will be revisiting and updating this regularly.
Before you start reading, why not go ahead and order one of our FREE no obligation 14 day free water cooler trials? Our rapid installation service means you can have it up and running in no time!
Drinking water at work – what are my rights as an employee under UK Law and Legislation?
Wading through legislation can be a daunting and overwhelming task, so let’s break down the requirements into simple steps.
Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 employers must provide basic welfare rights, such as drinking water, to employees.
Firstly, Regulation 22 states that…
1) An adequate supply of wholesome drinking water shall be provided for all persons at work in the workplace.
This is backed up by the United Nations General Assembly who actually define the right to clean drinking water as a human right. If your boss is refusing to allow you drinking water, you can let them know they are violating Resolution 64/292 of the Human Rights Act.
Secondly, it dictates that…
2) Every supply of drinking water shall—
(a) be readily accessible at suitable places; and
(b) be conspicuously marked by an appropriate sign where necessary for reasons of health or safety.
In brief, drinking water has to be nearby and marked if there is a chance it can be confused with dirty/hazardous water sources.
Where this is tricky is the legal definition of “readily accessible”. This is particularly the case for those working on outside projects. However, if you are having to sacrifice significant time to get water or endure an obstacle course of doors, stairs, corridors and elevators in order to just get a drink, it may be the case that your employer has to rethink their water provision.
And lastly, there is a further requirement…
(3) Where a supply of drinking water is required by paragraph (1), there shall also be provided a sufficient number of suitable cups or other drinking vessels unless the supply of drinking water is in a jet from which persons can drink easily.
The employer has a responsibility to ensure that there are enough cups available or that drinking water is supplied from a jet stream.
Can my employer stop me drinking water at work under Health and Safety Regulations?
The short answer? No.
This would be a breach of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. Breach of these regulations by your employer is punishable on summary conviction or on indictment with an unlimited fine.
What counts as clean and safe drinking water at work?
According to the The Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 2016<, safe drinking water is water that does not contain the following:
- Any microorganism or parasite, or
- Any substance at a concentration or value which would constitute a potential danger to human health;
- Any substance at a concentration or value which, in conjunction with any other substance it contains, would constitute a potential danger to human health;
- Concentrations or values of the parameters listed in Tables A and B in Schedule 1 in excess of or, as the case may be, less than, the prescribed concentrations or values;
It is also a requirement that the water satisfies the formula “[nitrate]/50 + [nitrite]/3 ≤ 1”, where the square brackets signify the concentrations in mg/1 for nitrate (NO3) and nitrite (NO2).
Of course whether you’re an employer or employee, you’re not going to be able to test for these substances yourself. If you have any concerns regarding the content of the water in your workplace, you have a choice of contacting the water company themselves or your local environmental health office. They should provide some advice regarding the water quality and test the water for you if necessary.
What are the effects of not drinking water at work?
Not drinking regularly will cause dehydration, which can result in fatigue, headaches, dizziness and decreased ability to concentrate. This will severely affect an employee’s productivity at work. There are also various other additional ways to keep hydrated other than drinking water, take a look at our article on staying hydrated at work to find out more.
What are the benefits of staying hydrated at work?
Ensuring and encouraging employees to stay hydrated at work will improve wellbeing, concentration and mood, therefore increasing their output. Dehydration impacts your concentration, reaction times and mood, which will all combine to massively impair your work. Feeling groggy, tired and irritable from dehydration will not only slow down your pace but will prevent successful team collaborations. Staying hydrated at work on the other hand, will help you stay focused, clear minded and maintain a positive attitude towards your team and achieving your goals.
What to do if you have no access to clean drinking water at work:
Enforcement of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations is the responsibility of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). If your employer is breaking health & safety regulations by not allowing you access to drinking water at work then you should contact HSE.
It couldn’t be easier to provide safe drinking water
Some of the main concerns surrounding the provision of filtered drinking water at work are the cost, maintenance and space implications. You can rent a compact free-standing or desktop water cooler from Wellbeing from as little as £4.99 per week, plus we offer regular servicing to keep it in tip top condition. Your staff can then benefit from refreshing filtered water whenever they want at the touch of a button!
Please remember, whilst all this information has been researched and provided in good faith it is not written by lawyers or legal experts and cannot therefore be relied upon as an alternative to professional legal advice.
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This article was written by Fred Roberts of The Wellbeing Group
Fred co-founded Wellbeing Watercoolers in 2006 with a mission to bring well-being, hydration and refreshment into UK workplaces. He has been responsible for business development, bringing new clients onboard, and providing marketing and business strategy. Fred successfully orchestrated a rebrand to Wellbeing Group in 2010 as the company evolved into a workplace refreshment and facilities provider with a mission to revitalize workplaces.