Common commercial plumbing health and safety regulations you need to know

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If you didn’t know already, the plumbing and heating industry is going to be quite busy over the next decade. That’s because of the ambitious plans announced by the UK Government, including the School Rebuilding Programme, which will see major refurbishment projects at educational establishments across the country, and the building of 40 new hospitals by 2030.

That’s not to mention the certain growth across many other private, commercial and public infrastructure sectors, meaning there’s set to be plenty of work ahead.

Such demanding and complex projects require adherence to some of the most important, yet often less understood, plumbing health and safety regulations in commercial and healthcare buildings. Installers must get these right, to prevent building shut-downs, disruption, unnecessary servicing and maintenance, water wastage, and the threat of litigation.

For the purposes of this blog, we are focusing on three key regulations – as well as highlighting the products that will help you to quickly and effectively stay compliant.

Class 5 backflow prevention device

Choose RPZ Valves to protect against backflow

Backflow is a significant problem, caused when stagnant or contaminated water gets sucked back into the mains water supply. This can be caused either to a sudden drop in pressure, or when a system is operating under higher pressure than the water mains, causing a reversal in the flow of water.

The danger is that harmful contaminants could be pulled back into the potable water supply, so ensuring the correct level of prevention or protection is in place is key.

According to the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations (1999) for England and Wales (Byelaws in Scotland), there are five fluid categories, each representing a higher degree of risk. The more significant health hazards begin with Fluid Category 4, which is water with harmful concentrations of toxic substances. Often, properties such as pubs, restaurants, hotels, leisure centres, hospitals and other such commercial or healthcare buildings will be classed as Fluid Category 4.

Suitable backflow prevention devices are required in these situations, such as Reduced Pressure Zone (RPZ) valves. Reliance Valves’ RPZ Valve, for example, is one of the safest and most reliable backflow preventers available for commercial (Fluid Category 4 risk) applications.

This device is a verifiable assembly, that is designed to be regularly tested, to ensure the higher risk of potential contamination is limited. In the event of a drop in pressure or back siphonage occurring, the mains water supply is protected by diverting the back-fed water from a property out to a waste pipe, therefore diverting it from the main supply and drinking network, limiting the risk of contamination.

Applications include commercial dishwashers, cleaning appliances, commercial heating systems and fire sprinkler systems where anti-freeze is not used.

TMV valve

Choose TMVs that prevent against scalding

A fundamental part of any hot water system is to prevent the risk of scalding, while allowing hot water systems to run at high enough temperatures to help prevent Legionella bacteria from breeding.

To this end, a Thermostatic Mixing Valve (TMV) is a must. Designed to blend hot and cold water to a pre-set temperature, TMVs are regulated by law. It became a legal requirement to install TMVs in all commercial and domestic new builds in 2010, as well as properties undergoing a ‘change of use’ after 2012.

Given the importance of fighting off harmful Legionella bacteria while also delivering water at safe temperatures, it is vital to choose the right TMV for each job. As outlined in Part G of the Building Regulations, the key decision is whether to opt for TMV2 or TMV3 certified valves.

TMV2 certified valves should be used in commercial and public buildings. Under this scheme, TMVs must maintain a safe and stable temperature of under 48°C at all times and quickly shut off in the event of hot or cold-water failure. A single TMV can be used to serve multiple outlets, ideal for a group of basins in public toilets or showers in a gym.

On the other hand, in healthcare settings, a risk assessment should be carried out and TMV3 certified valves must be specified accordingly. Crucially, a valve must be installed to every water outlet identified in the risk assessment.

Anti-Legionella Valves

Choose Anti-Legionella Valves to prevent Legionella from breeding

Legionella is likely to breed in stagnant water ranging between 20°C – 45°C, the bacteria become dormant below 20°C and does not survive above 60°C. The chances of bacterial growth are even higher in poorly designed plumbing and heating systems or in a building, or a part of a building, that isn’t used regularly.

The biggest danger lies in the dead legs of pipework – any run of pipe that is no longer in use or has become isolated from the regular flow of water. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) provide a framework of actions designed to assess, prevent or control the risk from bacteria like Legionella and take suitable precautions.

The Approved Code of Practice: Legionnaires’ disease: The control of Legionella bacteria in water systems (L8) contains practical guidance on how to manage and control the risks in your system.

To prevent stagnation in expansion vessels, it is recommended that WRAS-approved Anti-Legionella Valves are installed. Specially designed to maintain water circulation with a standard single connection to the expansion vessel, this valve diverts a portion of the flow into the vessel and continually renews the water content. This makes it difficult for Legionella bacteria to breed.

The Anti-Legionella Valve is an alternative to installing a flow through expansion vessel. These are often bulky, and in retrofit applications, can become a logistical nightmare.

The Reliance Valves’ WRAS certified Anti-Legionella Valves also include a rotatable tee-piece and an integral isolating valve to allow for quick, easy and flexible installation. This valve can be used on any standard vessel with a 3/4″ connection or larger vessels with 1 1/4″ connections.

Helping you stay compliant in a commercial world

With rapid expansion of infrastructure expected in the coming years, there’s no doubt that there will be plenty of plumbing and heating work to go around. However, the right pipes, valves and fittings must be correctly specified and installed to ensure they are compliant, fit for purpose and futureproofed.

At Reliance Valves, part of the RWC family of brands, along with our innovative products, we have one of the largest technical teams in the UK to help you get it right, and ensure water supplies are safe and stable for use for many years to come.

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Richard Bateman

Product Marketing Manager Plumbing and Heating

About the author

A highly experienced and passionate professional, I have over 15 years' experience as a commercial and domestic plumber and hold NVQ Level 3 qualifications from City and Guilds

Since joining RWC in 2015, I began as a technical engineer, utilising my extensive knowledge to provide exceptional support. Currently, I am thrilled to be working with the marketing department as a Product Marketing Manager. 

This role allows me to combine my technical background with a keen eye for market trends, ensuring that RWC's products meet the evolving needs of the industry. With my wealth of experience and commitment to excellence, I am proud to serve as a spokesperson for RWC, sharing our innovative solutions and contributing to the growth of the plumbing and heating sector.