What is the employer supposed to provide in terms of drinking water? Is getting water from the kitchen sink tap acceptable? There is only one kitchen, one sink and it's not very close to where many of us work.
No, this is not acceptable. Drinking water needs to be clean and accessible to all employees at all times - this is particularly important during hot weather.
The Compliance Code for Workplace Amenities and Work Environment covers what employers need to provide in order to comply with their duties under Section 21 of the OHS Act. It recommends that drinking outlets should be 'separate from washing facilities to avoid contamination.' This is what the Code says in full (in sections 34 - 39):
34. Clean drinking water needs to be provided for employees at all times. Drinking enough fluids is essential for normal body functioning.
35. Water needs to be:
- free of charge
- supplied so that there is one drinking point for every 40 employees or part thereof
- situated within 30 metres of each employee or within reach of employees who cannot leave their work task.
36. Sometimes, when workplaces are temporary, remote or mobile, employers are unable to provide drinking points for employees. Employees such as transport drivers, security personnel, park rangers and gardeners, forestry employees, sales representatives or mobile community health employees could be affected.In these cases, employers need to provide the amenity by ensuring access to public drinking water facilities, bottled water or containers for employees to take water with them.
37. Drinking water needs to be clean, safe for consumption, cool and palatable.
38. More information on the quality of drinking water can be found in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines endorsed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (nhmrc.gov.au).
39. Drinking water provided by employers needs to be:
- from outlets that are separate from toilet or washing facilities to avoid contamination
- hygienically provided by means of disposable or washable drinking containers or delivered by a drinking fountain so that employees do not share drinking containers.
The unstated duty is that employers must ensure that workers are able to take a drink of water (the quality of which is described in the code), when they need to. Employers who prevent their employees having access to water for long periods would be in breach of their general duty of care under s21.
To access and download the Compliance Code for Workplace Amenities and Work Environment go to this page on the WorkSafe Victoria website.
Last amended June 2019