Energy & Utility Skills launches new National Water Hygiene Group to ensure that the UK water undertakers have optimal approaches and anyone working on restricted operations is compliant
The Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership (EUSP), represents 28 organisations from across the energy and utilities sector. As one part of its Workforce Renewal and Skills Strategy stated commitment to develop workforce culture and competence, an independently researched whitepaper has been released today that tests whether improvements are possible in the way the sector applies the Principles of Water Supply Hygiene (PoWSH) and National Water Hygiene Scheme (NWHS). Energy & Utility Skills has established a new National Water Hygiene Group (NWHG) to bring the leading UK water companies together to drive best practice and address the professional challenge raised by the ‘Mind the Gap’ whitepaper.
The UK’s water companies already mandate that all appropriate employees should be trained on the PoWSH and trained and registered for the NWHS. Registration allows the bearer to carry an official ‘blue card’ which companies can scrutinise either on line at any time or directly via an official card. However, the whitepaper titled ‘Mind the Gap’ – What’s Missing in Protecting Drinking Water Quality?’ by Phillip Mills, Director of Policy Consulting Network, seeks confirmation that the scheme has kept up with the increasing water industry drive for hygiene and questions whether third party suppliers and Self Lay Providers (SLPs) that work in contact with water company assets on ‘restricted operations*’ have the latest knowledge as to exactly what full compliance involves. The PoWSH state that any individuals working on ‘restricted operations’ are required to hold a ‘blue card’.
Nick Ellins, CEO of Energy & Utility Skills said, “This independent paper from an experienced professional is a vital part of our full strategic review of the National Water Hygiene Scheme. The ‘blue card’ is mandated right across the UK water undertakers as part of their work to protect public health and it must reflect their latest demands and site conditions, and the needs of drinking water quality regulators. This paper directly challenges us all to scrutinise our approaches and be sure that we are doing all we can to minimise risk and be robust. We welcome that scrutiny, and we will use the new National Water Hygiene Group to engage water companies in checking each point made and I know that the main supply chain and professional bodies in the water sector will also want to ensure their members are fully conversant with what is expected of them and deliver the highest standards of operational practice in protecting public health.”
Report author, Phillip Mills, Director of Policy Consulting Network Ltd, added, “There are clear arrangements in place to ensure those individuals employed directly by water companies are trained and registered on the National Water Hygiene Scheme. However, there are question marks regarding the consistency in the interpretation of the term ‘restricted operations’ and whether non-water company individuals, who are carrying out work on water supply assets have the knowledge of water supply hygiene. Any lack of training and awareness, and the subsequent actions or inactions, can present an ongoing risk to drinking water quality that needs to be addressed.”
The ‘Mind the Gap’ – What’s Missing in Protecting Drinking Water Quality? whitepaper was independently produced as part of a strategic review of the National Water Hygiene Scheme (NWHS) that is operated by Energy & Utility Skills on behalf of the UK water industry. The NWHS is the only approved water hygiene scheme in the UK, providing accessible, consistent and auditable principles by which UK water companies and contractors are required to train employees. NWHS certification is recognised across the wider energy & utilities sector, enabling workers to transfer skills and accreditation across employers and occupations and is aligned with the Safety, Health and Environmental Awareness (SHEA) suite of schemes by Energy & Utility Skills.