As lockdown restrictions in the United Kingdom continue to be lifted, business owners including those who run pubs, restaurants and cafés are preparing for a safe reopening of their doors.
The government have issued COVID-secure guidelines which must be followed to ensure a safe return to work. These directions deal with how to prevent the spread of the disease, but not much attention seems to have been paid to other dangers caused by the extended shutdown of premises, shops, and offices.
We all know that copious amounts of hand sanitiser will be required for clean and healthy hands to stop transmission – but not what should be done to ensure that pipework systems for example do not end up causing health problems after laying unused for over three months.
Here are some steps that business owners should take to ensure a safe reopening relating to pipes.
Flush out your pipes to prevent Legionnaires disease
Legionnaires disease poses a very real threat for businesses whose premises have been completely shut throughout the three-month lockdown period.
Legionella, the bacteria which causes the fatal disease, grows and thrives in stagnant water between 25°C and 45°C. If a business has left water to lie in pipes and tanks for three months, then conditions will have been ripe for legionella to form – especially given the warm weather of recent months.
People contract Legionnaires disease when they inhale droplets of water containing legionella through mist or vapour. Individuals with underlying health conditions, weakened immune systems, respiratory problems and lung disease are most at risk. One in 10 people who become sick with Legionnaires disease will die due to complications from their illness.
Removing legionella from pipes and tanks ahead of a safe reopening for business is thankfully straightforward. By turning on your taps for between 10 and 30 minutes (depending on the size of the premises), you can flush out any stagnant and contaminated water so that it does not come into contact with customers or employees.
Beware of lead leaching into water
Another threat posed by pipes being out of use for a significant period of time comes from lead. If your business is located in an older building which still contains lead pipes somewhere in the system, then you need to flush stagnant water in the same way as the method for removing legionnaires.
Lead leaches into water which it has extended contact time with. This can happen in as short a time frame as overnight, so a three-month period in which water has not moved presents a huge risk when it comes to contamination.
Exposure to lead is harmful to infants and children in particular with studies showing adverse effects on their mental development and behaviour. Subsequently, the World Health Organisation advises that exposure to lead is kept at a minimum.
The British government prohibited the use of lead in many products with the ban encompassing water supply pipes in 1970. Most business owners will therefore not be effected by water contaminated with lead, but if you have any doubts about the makeup of your pipework system then it is advised to flush them ahead of a safe reopening.
General pipe repair and maintenance
Three months is a long time for a business to have been shut and while your pub, restaurant, café or shop has been in lockdown, problems might have developed within pipework systems.
That PVC plastic pipe which needed repair because of a small leak might have developed a larger leak. Issues that were seen as minor back in March may have become more pressing over the course of the last 15 weeks.
The last thing any business owner wants is to be affected by pipework problems, especially if they are then force to scale back services or close altogether just a matter of days after a safe reopening.
You can avoid that fate by checking your pipes before reopening to make sure everything is in good working order. If you spot any holes, cracks, leaks of problems then take steps to fix them now before throwing open your doors rather than risk a bigger problem down the line.
The SylWrap pipe repair and maintenance range contains products for fixing leaking pipes and strengthening and protecting old and worn pipework systems.
SylWrap pipe repair solutions are easy-to-use, do not require the costly services of a plumber or other expert and are effective inside 30 minutes, making them ideal for preparing a business’ pipes ahead of a safe reopening.