Sep 27, 2020 - 4 min read
“The owners of hotels and other guest accommodation have a duty to reduce workplace risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures.”
UK government website: Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance and support
Covid-19 is a respiratory disease. Contamination occurs when the virus enters a person’s respiratory system, carried in the breath’s moisture. Contamination can occur in two ways:
1. Directly – from one person’s exhalation to another’s inhalation.
2. Indirectly – transferred from one surface to another, and ultimately to a person’s respiratory system.
Through the use of face coverings in public or in gatherings, direct contamination can be largely prevented. However, the transference of covid-19 via touch is a bigger beast to tackle, because the virus can survive on untreated surfaces for more than 24 hours. Via spittle and saliva, the virus can be transferred from hand to hand, hand to surface, surface to hand, and ultimately to a person’s respiratory system.
So, will there be changes to the way in which drinking water is provided in corporate hospitality and office environments?
Some procedural changes are already coming into practice.
Because covid-19 is highly infectious, all touchable surfaces must be vigilantly monitored, cleansed, and disinfected. In this post-lockdown period, when offices and hotels and conference centres are reopening, we’re already becoming more aware of cleaning procedures, which, in the old normal, were usually carried out discreetly, in the background. The necessity for cleaning tasks to be undertaken more frequently means that this aspect of service is now more visible, providing, in addition to scrupulous hygiene, a certain sense of reassurance to customers and staff.
Water dispensers are touched every time they’re used – with the exception of the Touchless Dispense from The Boiling Tap Company. Even if people are conscientious about hand-washing, it only takes a touch to the mouth or nose to transfer moisture from the respiratory system to the hand, and, potentially, to contaminate a surface with covid-19. The virus can be present in someone before they experience any symptoms.
It’s important, therefore, to keep water dispensers, display cabinets, and tabletops clean and disinfected – a procedure that will require additional resources, such as PPE (personal protective equipment), cleaning products and materials, and, possibly, labour.
As in a supermarket, where disinfectant spray and paper towels are provided to customers for the cleansing of baskets and trolleys, it might well become common practice for similar facilities to be provided at hydration stations.
Once upon a time, before covid-19, it wasn’t the norm to carry around hand sanitiser and to use it frequently throughout every day. Many moons ago, before covid-19, the only establishment in which you’d expect to see hand sanitiser for public use was the hospital. In the post-lockdown world, hand sanitiser is universally available; far from being considered a little eccentric for using it, you might be frowned upon for not using it.
Therefore, where there’s a water dispenser, there will surely be a supply of hand sanitiser.
During lockdown, single-use items became a universal solution to business continuity in the catering industry. But a backward stride in environmental concern can’t be a long-term solution. Bottled water and disposable cups were saviours for many businesses earlier this year, but now that we’re moving into a new normal that could go on indefinitely, there’s a call for balance and stability.
Providing drinking water by means of water dispensers is a more environmentally friendly solution than large numbers of plastic bottles. The manufacture, filling, and shipping of plastic bottles, and their subsequent disposal, accrue a huge cost to the natural environment. Water dispensers also represent a financially better option.
In offices and communal areas where water dispensers are already installed, we could see additional units appearing. With a need to avoid queues and gatherings, and at the same time allowing time for the sanitising of hands and equipment, business owners and managers might well consider additional units to be a good long-term solution for the provision of drinking water to visitors, customers, and staff. Disposable cups might be provided, but people can also refill their own reusable cups and bottles.
Over the past seven years, water-dispenser units have become increasingly popular in the UK. Concern for the natural environment and a growing awareness of the link between hydration and health have led more and more business owners to opt for the water dispenser as a means of providing staff, visitors, and customers with pure, chilled water. If this trend continues, we might see a significant reduction in the amount of plastic that’s disposed of every day.
And in 10, 20, 30 years’ time, hand sanitisers and DIY cleaning facilities in shops, offices, and tourist attractions – and at all hydration stations, too – might still be the norm.
For now, though, in the second half of 2020, going into 2021, the way we offer drinking water will be with respect for hygiene and safety, hand-in-hand with that long-established determination to be kind to the environment.