August is Water Quality Month, and it is important to keep in mind that the water we pollute ends up being the water we drink.
Chemicals are in many of the products we use both at home and at work, with workplace products often being stronger and more hazardous to our health and safety, and the environment. Though we filter drinking water significantly, all waterways are interconnected and find their way into taps and faucets around the world.
Responsibility to the environment
Nowadays, containing every pollutant that is contaminating our environment seems like an impossible task. And maybe it is. However, being more cautious about how we use chemicals can help. Here are some just a few easy things your organization can do to help reduce the amount of contaminant that is carried in storm water runoff and ends up polluting our rivers, lakes and oceans.
- Spill prevention. It is important for everyone within the organization to be aware of the importance of proper chemical storage and disposal. Ensure everyone who works with chemicals is trained to perform tank/container inspections. This will hopefully allow you to spot any issues before large spills occur.
- Proper cleaning. Whether it is an accidental spill or an anticipated leak, chemicals should never be washed into storm grids. Many of these substances can be swept up with a broom and discarded in a safe manner, or absorbed with the proper materials. Check the substance's SDS to find out the best way to clean up a leak or spill.
- Disposal. While it may be tempting and easy, do not pour leftover chemicals down the drain or on the ground. They can seep into underground water systems, damage the environment, or injure other workers who come into contact with it. Ensure you follow the disposal methods listed on the SDS to
- Responsible landscaping. It takes a lot of water, fertilizer, and a variety of other chemicals to create the perfect landscape. To help lessen the amount that finds it's way into our water supply, try switching to plants that require less water, and only use weed killers, fertilizers, and pesticides if it's absolutely necessary.
Responsibility to workers
Now that we know how to help keep our water clean, let's look at how that can directly benefit us.
Water is critical to keep the human body working properly. Good hydration keeps you in good health, and keeps your mind focused. While it might sound obvious, clean water is essential to our overall well being, and employers are legally obligated to ensure that clean drinking water is available to their workers at all times. Here are a few things that both employers and workers should remember about clean water in the workplace:
- Clean and safe. Tap water is fine to supply as drinking water, so long as there are no harmful chemicals in it. If for any reason you are unsure if the water on your premises is safe to consume, have it tested. That way you'll be sure it is contaminant free and safe for yourself and your workers to use.
- Accessibility. The recommendation from OHS Reps is that every worker should be within 30 meters of a drinking station. If that isn't a possibility in your workplace, or if you have workers out in the field, employers should ensure that there is access to public drinking facilities or provide workers with an adequate supply of bottled water to get them through their workday.
- Adequate quantities. It is important that there is enough water available for everyone, and that the quantities available to workers take into account different work conditions. For example, workers performing manual labor outside in the middle of summer should have more immediate access to a larger supply of drinking water than someone at an air conditioned desk. However, the more water available to everyone, the better.
- Free. Drinkable water is a basic human right and access to safe, clean and tasteless water should be available to everyone in the workplace at no cost.
The exact standards may vary depending on your country, state, or province, and should be referred to prior to implementing any changes to the water supply in your workplace.
Let's try take #WQM18 across the 7 seas and make water safer for ourselves and our planet. Don't forget to scope out our Twitter feed on August 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th for more information and tips regarding water quality!