29th July 2014

Does my employer have to provide drinking water at work?

The Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 1992 covers this requirement.

Regulation 22 places requirements on the employer with respect to the provision of drinking water. It states:

1. An adequate supply of wholesome drinking water shall be provided for all persons at work in the workplace.

2. Every supply of drinking water required by paragraph (1) 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.

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 approved code of practice states:
Drinking water should normally be obtained from a public or private water supply by means of a tap on a pipe connected directly to the water main.

Alternatively, drinking water may be derived from a tap on a pipe connected directly to a storage cistern which complies with the requirements of the UK Water Bye-laws. In particular, any cistern, tank or vessel used as a supply should be well covered, kept clean and tested and disinfected as necessary. Water should only be provided in refillable containers where it cannot be obtained directly from a mains supply. Such containers should be suitably enclosed to prevent contamination and should be refilled at least daily.

Drinking water taps should not be installed in places where contamination is likely, for example in a workshop where lead is handled or processed. As far as is reasonably practicable they should also not be installed in sanitary accommodation.

Drinking cups or beakers should be provided unless the supply is by means of a drinking fountain. In the case of non-disposable cups a facility for washing them should be provided nearby. Drinking water supplies should be marked as such if people may otherwise drink from supplies which are not meant for drinking. Marking is not necessary if non-drinkable cold water supplies are clearly marked as such.

The guidance states: Water supplies likely to be grossly contaminated, such as in supplies meant for process use only, should be clearly marked by a suitable sign. Bottled water/water dispensing systems may still be provided as a secondary source of drinking water.

Reference L24, Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare, ACOP and guidance, (ISBN 0717604136 - available from HSE Books)

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