Getting Back to Business: Water Safety and the Business Continuity Plan Update
Building owners and managers are in a tough position right now, as “business normal” includes lower occupancy and therefore new concerns for the systems designed for higher loads and flows.
The Business Continuity Plan for your building, whether starting from scratch or refreshing in light of the pandemic we definitely didn’t expect, needs some water safety updates to ensure that people using the space in these times and for the future are protected from infection, and protect your business from the unintended costs of insurance claims and lawsuits that may arise from not addressing these simple items.
1. Map your Water Systems
Knowing where the water comes in and goes out, and all systems it touches in between will give you an idea of trouble spots for microbiological growth. Keeping water moving allows the disinfectant provided by your municipality a chance to replenish, and for some systems that’s enough. In systems like cooling towers, you’ll need to ensure that you’re adding enough disinfectant and circulating enough water to keep bacteria at bay.
Working with a Water Hygiene Specialist can make this an easier task, as they are knowledgeable about things like pH, system temperature and disinfectant residual that affect biological growth. They’ll create a Water Management Plan that helps you know your trouble spots and put a safety plan in place.
2. Consider updating Water Treatment Equipment
Many buildings have cooling tower and potable water treatment equipment running on older analog systems. They’re not responsive to changes in water flow and municipality water quality, and adjustments have to be made by hand, either when the operator notices the change or when the water treater comes in for regular service.
Newer controller systems can be controlled remotely, giving your water treater the opportunity to review changes in the water system daily. They can adjust the feed of chemistry as needed, saving money on chemical costs and ensuring your system is in good working order before their next scheduled service visit.
Secondary disinfection systems have received nice updates in recent years, allowing similar remote-controlled functionality and the ability to adjust the amount of disinfectant supplied by the hour.
These updates have a small upfront cost and provide a wealth of savings in chemical and water operating costs and keep people in and around your building safer by making it easier to adapt to changes that affect your business.
3. Keep your Records in Order
In the midst of a respiratory infection pandemic, the last thing we want to see is a rise in Legionnaires Disease (LD) or other bacterial infections that make matters worse. Once you’ve got your Water Management Plan and new treatment equipment, make sure you verify and validate your efforts with proper testing for microbiological contamination and the presence of bacteria that make people sick.
Building owners can be held responsible for LD cases that can be traced back to their building systems. Regular Legionella testing is a small expense that can help you refine your Water Management Plan and ensure the safety of people in your building and around it. It will also be your defense if a lawsuit or insurance claim should arise from an outbreak.
While times of lower profit and larger concern may not seem like the time to invest in water system updates and plans, there really isn’t a better time. For the long-term protection of your assets, being ready for short-term crises is a must.