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Are you exposing your employees to contaminated water like the SA Swimming national trials?

by , 18 April 2013
As if South Africa needed to make news headlines for a further negative reason. Now, the SA National Swimming trials have been further postponed due to concerns that swimming in murky green water as a result of burst pipes will make them sick. This highlights the importance of including water quality in your risk assessments to make sure you aren't harming your employees' health by letting them drink contaminated water.

The SA Swimming National trials in PE have been further postponed due to a dirty pool.
The Newton Park swimming pool first turned green on Monday, disrupting the competition schedule and causing difficulties for swimmers due to poor visibility. 
South Africa's top swimmers are competing in this event, but it's just been postponed again, says PoliticsWeb. 
Because yet another pipe burst yesterday after a quick clean up, leading to a build up of chlorine and murky water that's putting the swimmers at risk of diarrhoea, ear infections and asthma attacks, says IOL Sport.
The cause of the dirty, contaminated pool?
Lack of maintenance.
So your business could be contaminating the local water supply in a similar way, because accidental water contamination or pollution is easy when there's a burst pipe, says the Health and Safety Bulletin.
As a health, safety and environment officer, it's your duty to protect the environment by saving water, to ensure your company complies with the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act.
But it's not just the environment that suffers when there's a burst pipe – you'll need to take care of it as soon as possible to protect your employees' health.
So you need to do a continuous risk assessment to minimise any actions in your business that have the potential to harm the environment or your employees. 
Include water quality in your next risk assessment – here's what to look out for
If you notice water is running a murky or milky colour from the taps or if there's a funny smell, this could mean the water's been contaminated.
That's what happened at a refinery in the US last year, when an employee noticed a chemical smell in the water in the company kitchen.
When conducting a risk assessment, trace amounts of benzene were found in two of the taps at the company, says TheDenverChannel.
Minimise the health risks to your employees by providing alternative sources of drinking water
Following the risk assessment of the water quality, the company issued warnings against drinking or using any of the water from taps, bathrooms, kitchen sinks and drinking fountains. “
To protect your employees from possible water contamination, you can follow suit by making temporary arrangements to supply your employees with fresh water by in bringing bottled water for drinking and kitchen use.”
It's the only way to minimise the risk of harming your employees' health if your water supply's been contaminated.

Get the Risk Assessment Matrix and guide with the Risk Assessment: The 100% legally compliant risk assessment toolkit to help you assess the hazards and risks in your workplace.

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