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Revise H&S laws that force one to wash in scalding water

Comment 9th July 2010

One often goes into cloakrooms where the basins have a single spout dispensing scalding water with no control over temperature.   If you want to wash your hands your one and only choice is to scald yourself. 

 The root of this problem is the persistent use of gravity-fed water systems, with their loft- mounted storage tanks, a practice which has long since fallen into disuse in most of North America, Europe, and Southern Africa.  

In an attempt to bodge this right our Health and Safety Executive has brought about a law which mandates that the hot water temperature must be 60 deg C or more to avoid the cultivation of legionnaires disease and other bacteria in the loft tank.    An H&S mandatory notice nearby blithely tells one that this is 'VERY HOT WATER!'        This is a classic example of an H&S reg which, in order to eliminate a bacterial hazard of low probability, creates an alternate scalding hazard of high probability.    

And to make sure that nobody misses the opportunity to scald themselves,  the sensible option of using mixer taps is discouraged by our venerable H&S on the grounds that clean mains-direct drinking water should be available in cloakrooms.  So to accommodate the one person in ten thousand who would really want to drink water from a cloakroom tap,  we are forced to have separate cold and hot taps on basins, and have to do some kind of 'modulating hand dance' between scalding hot and ice cold water.    H&S's answer to this is that one should use the plug (?), fill the basin with water from both taps until it's a comfortable temperature and then wash one's hands in it.) .  Please, get real!   H&S legislators may have time for this, the rest of us working people don't.

The sensible thing  to do would be to enforce mains- pressured closed water systems in all new public establishments – as is widely done elsewhere in the world – with reasonable temperature hot water and cold water dispensed from mixer taps.   The cold water would then also be potable for the few that want to drink it.   Establishments with existing gravity-fed tanks systems should be given a 5 year period of grace to upgrade.

Why does this matter?

Most regulations are designed to solve a problem.   But it is  unacceptable that a regulation be allowed to exist if in solving a problem, it creates a much bigger problem.   Furthermore, H&S regulations of this ilk that fly in the face of common sense bring ridicule and scorn on the H&S executive and undermine public confidence.     Problems are best solved by addressing the cause, not heaping bodge after bodge upon the symptoms.

If my suggestion were implemented, we could wash our hands in water at a comfortable temperature, with no risk of water-borne disease.   Furthermore, establishments that implemented the conversion to mains-pressured closed water systems would be able to run their boilers at a lower temperature, and save energy. The cost savings from this would amortize the cost  of the conversion over a period of time.

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