No Short Cuts for Water Hygiene during Pandemic

The UK water industry and drinking water quality regulators have stated from the start of the pandemic that the efforts to preserve the safety and quality of the public water supply will only increase, and there is no room for any reduction in compliance or competence.

The UK water industry and drinking water quality regulators have stated from the start of the pandemic that the efforts to preserve the safety and quality of the public water supply will only increase, and there is no room for any reduction in compliance or competence.

Energy & Utility Skills Chief Executive Nick Ellins commented “The UK’s water supply is pivotal to the public health of its four nations and the whole economy. This has been highlighted particularly by the Coronavirus incident, where the population is able to have one of the highest quality tap waters in the world delivered to their home, with no ordering, queuing or additional effort, at a cost of roughly £1 for every metric tonne – that’s 1,000 litres.”

“The tolerance for a compliance issue occurring in the industry now is zero, and so everyone is stepping up their efforts to find new and pragmatic ways to work, but with no short cuts in the competence requirements for any direct or indirectly employed party working across restricted operations from source to tap. This includes registration on the National Water Hygiene Scheme that is embedded across the Principles of Water Supply Hygiene, the Competent Operator Scheme and the Water Industry Specifications (WISs) and Information and Guidance Notes (IGNs) which are managed by Water UK. Any loss of public confidence in tap water now, would be a reputational blow that could take decades for the whole water industry to come back from.”

“The UK’s water companies, water quality regulators and vital contractors and supply chain are doing an incredible job to maintain the supply of fresh drinking water to the public during this pandemic, and deserve open appreciation and thanks from us all. Their role in protecting and enabling public health on a daily basis throughout this testing period is critical, and they are safely bringing over 16 billion litres of tap water a day right to our homes, hospitals and critical infrastructure and services.”

A valid EUSR National Water Hygiene registration remains a mandatory requirement for all individuals working on the public water supply within Restricted Operations. The UK water industry has set out clearly that hygiene is the highest priority for the health of individuals and the public, and this does not reduce during this time but becomes more important. There must be no reduction in competence or compliance across the duration of this pandemic.

The industry does however recognise that a pragmatic approach is needed given the closure of many training centres until further notice, and the need for social distancing.  A number of changes are therefore underway to maintain the high standards required, while increasing flexibility, and these will be reviewed on a regular basis, through discussion between Energy & Utility Skills, the UK water companies and drinking water quality regulators.   

Last week Energy & Utility Skills made a Computer Based Learning (CBL) route available, to enable the renewal of National Water Hygiene registrations where they expire between 19 March 2020 and 30 June 2020. From 27 March 2020 until 30 June 2020, the National Water Hygiene CBL route will extend to new entrants, i.e. individuals who do not already hold a National Water Hygiene registration. 

Organisations wishing to use the National Water Hygiene CBL route for new and renewal registrations will be asked to sign a ‘Declaration’ which sets out their roles and responsibilities.

A two-week extension period is also being introduced to National Water Hygiene registrations expiring between 26 March and 9 April.  This temporary arrangement is to allow time for an individual to receive training – whether face to face or online.  Companies must formally request this on behalf of their employees.

Energy & Utility Skills are also working on guidance to support online delivery of National Water Hygiene training and assessment. We will be issuing guidance to help and support those who wish to deliver via this route shortly.

With EUSR ID cards (‘Blue cards’) being delivered to offices and so many already closed or due to close, there will be delays in getting the supporting cards out to individuals.  All companies and individuals are therefore encouraged to use EUSR, the 24/7 online register (www.eusr.co.uk) to check National Water Hygiene registrations for the period of the incident. 

If you need to talk to one of our Quality team about approval to deliver NWH CBL, please contact the Quality team on email: quality@euskills.co.uk or telephone: 0121 745 1310 (select option 1).