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Water cooler movement

As much of the purchasing decisions regarding water coolers are made by FMs, it pays to know which coolers to order to suit the needs your organisation. Phillipa Atkinson-Clow, General Manager of the British Water Cooler Association warns that not all water coolers are equal

The unusually hot summer may have encouraged more people in the workplace to increase the amount of water they drink, but even before the tropical temperatures hit Britain, there has for some years now been a steady trend towards people drinking more water throughout the year – regardless of the seasons. Increased demand for convenient healthy hydration has contributed to an increased demand for water coolers. This in part accounts for five successive years of growth in the water cooler sector which has seen the value of the UK water cooler market break the £130 million barrier (in 2017, the latest data shows a value of £133 million).

Hydration in the workplace is increasingly viewed as a key ingredient in promoting wellbeing, with the provision of safe, sustainable and inexpensive hydration often seen as the role of a good facilities manager. There is immense value to companies and organisations to be gained by delivering safe, cool, instantly available and calorie-free hydration via water coolers.

Apart from the obvious benefits of drinking water, there are benefits to be gained from taking short walks to the cooler, which keep people’s circulation flowing and enables them to rest tired eyes. There is also the added advantage of discouraging staff from bringing single use plastic bottles to work. When using a bottled water cooler, the containers are reused many times over and then recycled. Encouraging the use of coolers can help facilities management teams to meet environmental sustainability targets and cut down on plastic waste.

Benefits aside however, it is important to be aware that not all water coolers are equal. Just as you would only use approved suppliers to fit electrical appliances, remove asbestos from old buildings or check carefully who is tampering with your building’s IT systems, you need to ensure that your water cooler provider is at the top of its profession too.

The trade association for the water cooler sector, the British Water Cooler Association (BWCA) is the organisation which trains and monitors standards amongst the best suppliers and distributors in the sector. BWCA Members undergo rigorous, industry specific training and annual third-party audits to retain their right to membership accreditation.

It is important for FMs to understand that the BWCA is not a cosy members’ club; on the contrary, as an Association we conduct audits and monitor members annually to ensure that standards of excellence are maintained. Companies require this monitoring to be granted membership in the first place and then must undergo annual auditing to be assured of their continued membership and accreditation. We have the ability to strike off anyone who doesn’t comply. It’s not left to hope and trust.

If you are part of management responsible for the procurement of water coolers, consider placing membership of BWCA as an accreditation body on your checklist of requirements in your tender documents.

There are two types of cooler: Bottled Water Cooler and POU (Point of use) otherwise known as mains-fed coolers. Both have advantages, and choosing the right water coolers for your needs depends on a number of factors.

If you want to be able to plug-in the machine or machines wherever is convenient, and you have suitable dry, dark and clean space to store a supply of bottles, a bottled water cooler is ideal. Bottled Water coolers also have the advantage of being movable so that if an open-plan office or factory configuration changes, you can move the cooler as needed. It also can be prominently displayed, so nudging workers to remember to drink the recommended eight glasses a day. You do need to ensure however, that staff changing the water bottles are correctly trained in safe handling.

If you have a readily accessible source of mains water and limited storage space, then a mains-fed cooler may be best. There is no need to store bottles but there is no flexibility as once it’s plumbed in the position remains fixed.

Your chosen supplier will be able to offer guidance on which machines will be suitable. They will also arrange regular sanitisation of your units, whichever type you select.

The annual BWCA conference and trade show is on 28 March 2019 in Nottingham. www.bwca.org.uk

About Sarah OBeirne


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