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Drinking Water – What facilities do you need to provide?

The requirement for employers to provide adequate facilities and amenities, such as toilets and lunch areas is essential for managing the welfare of workers in any workplace that is under the control and management of the employer. It is important to note that an employer’s obligation to provide suitable workplace facilities and amenities also extend to the requirement to provide clean, safe drinking water so far as is reasonably practicable.

Australia’s work health and safety compliance codes state that when determining how to ensure that suitable access to drinking water is provided, employers are required to consider matters such as:

- the nature of the work

- any hazards associated with the work being performed,

- the size, location and nature of the workplace, and

- the composition and size of the workforce.

The Code of Practice: Managing the work environment and facilities provide that clean, cool drinking water:

- should be provided free of charge,

- should be at, or below, 24 degrees Celsius (through refrigeration, provision of non-  contaminated ice cubes or shading of water)

- be easily accessible by employees,

- be separate from toilet or washing facilities.

- is to be hygienically provided and does not require workers to drink directly from a shared container.  Suitable measures may include providing a drinking fountain  where the water is delivered in an upward jet, or through providing disposable or washable drinking containers.

In Victoria, the Workplace Amenities and Work Environment compliance code provides that clean drinking water is required and that there should be one drinking point for every 40 employees or part thereof. Drinking stations should be situated within 30 metres of each employee or within reach of employees who cannot leave their workstation.

Where employees are employed to perform duties in workplaces that are temporary, mobile or remote in nature, both the Code of Practice: Managing the work environment and facilities and the Victorian Compliance code: Workplace amenities and work environment provide that employers should take steps to ensure that there is access to public drinking water facilities, bottled water or individual containers such as insulated flasks for employees.

It is important to ensure that where the workplace has water supply points that are supplied specifically for industrial processes or for tasks such as fire protection, such water points should be clearly marked with signs warning that the water is unfit for drinking.

As the human body is made up to approximately 60% water, if employees are not provided with access to adequate drinking water facilities and are unable to keep replenishing the water that has been used while working, such as through sweat, there is an increased risk of dehydration and/or illness or injury occurring.

If you require assistance with understanding your WHS obligations, or if you require safety advice, please contact the team at Safety Advice Online on 1300 720 004.

Information in HR Advice Online guides and blog posts is meant purely for educational discussion of human resources issues. It contains only general information about human resources matters and due to factors such as government legislation changes, may not be up-to-date at the time of reading. It is not legal advice and should not be treated as such

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