As well as implementing strict hygiene measures and cleaning procedures to prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases, steps must be taken to ensure there is no risk posed by contaminated water. One of the most well-known risks posed by water is exposure to Legionella bacteria, which can cause Legionnaires’ disease.
Although this disease does not pose a high risk to animals, it can be extremely dangerous to humans and it is the responsibility of veterinary clinics to keep both staff and human clients safe from exposure to Legionella bacteria.
Contaminated water can cause a range of illnesses, so being scrupulous with water management systems is vital. All water fittings and materials in veterinary clinics must legally comply with the water regulations which were introduced in England and Wales in 1999 and Scotland in 2000.
The Water Regulations Advisory Scheme
To help consumers, businesses and other organisations follow these regulations, the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS) was set up to safeguard public health and make it clear which products and devices are compliant and can be safely used with the mains water supply in the UK.
While it is not strictly a legal requirement for products to obtain WRAS approval, it can be a simple way for those buying appliances to be confident that the product they are investing in meets the regulations and is safe to use. WRAS-approved products are designed to prevent backflow – when stagnant or contaminated water remains in or returns to the mains water supply, usually due to problems with the water pressure.
Using a product which does not comply with the current water regulations can have severe consequences for veterinary practices and other businesses dealing with animal health. If they are found to be using non-compliant equipment, the authorities can serve official notice to remove all the machines which do not meet the regulations, even if they are in excellent condition and working well. This can be very expensive for the business involved, as they will then have to replace all their appliances and may experience disruption in their services for clients and patients.
Using a product which does not comply with the current water regulations can have severe consequences for veterinary practices and other businesses dealing with animal health
The WRAS certification addresses five different fluid categories, which set out the different levels of contamination risk. Category 1 is for water which is considered safe for drinking, while water in category 2 may have had its quality impaired but poses no risk to health. Fluid category 3 is for water where there is a slight health risk and category 4 is applied where there is considered to be a significant hazard. Category 5 covers fluid which represents a serious public health risk due to the presence of toxins, pathogenic organisms or radioactive materials.
WRAS itself is an independent certification body and only approves products that have undergone extensive laboratory testing. The quality testing process considers the conditions for installation and examines all the components and materials involved in the production of a product to check it does not have an impact on or contaminate in any way the water it comes into contact with.
Products are submitted to WRAS for approval by manufacturers and once it has been granted, the certification is valid for five years. After this period, products must be submitted for reassessment to ensure that they still meet the quality standards set out by the regulations.
How does this affect your veterinary practice?
As veterinary practices, clinics and hospitals deal with pathogens, faecal material and animal waste every day, any appliances they use for cleaning, from washing machines to dishwashers and washer-disinfectors, should be approved for WRAS category 5.
As veterinary practices, clinics and hospitals deal with pathogens, faecal material and animal waste every day, any appliances they use for cleaning … should be approved for WRAS category 5
When you are looking to buy products for your veterinary practice, you can check whether they have WRAS approval by looking at the manufacturer’s website or product literature; the WRAS certification mark will usually be prominently displayed. However, bear in mind that some products must be installed in a certain way to meet the conditions of their approval, so check this with your consultant when you make your purchase.