Drinking water

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. The 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 facilities and the working 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 68 - 71):

Drinking Water

68. Clean, potable, cool drinking water needs to be provided for employees. Drinking enough fluids is essential for normal body functioning.

69. Drinking water should be:

  • free of charge
  • supplied so that there is one drinking point for every 40 employees or part thereof
  • nearby or within reach of employees who cannot leave their work task.

70. Sometimes, when workplaces are temporary, remote or mobile, employers cannot provide drinking points for employees. This may include employees such as delivery workers, transport drivers, security personnel, park rangers and gardeners, forestry employees, sales representatives, emergency personnel, or mobile community health employees. In these cases, employers need to identify nearby public drinking water facilities for employees or provide those employees with bottled water, or containers for employees to take water with them, at no charge to the employee.


71. Drinking water provided by employers should be:

  • from outlets that are separate from toilet or washing facilities, to avoid contamination
  • hygienically provided in disposable or washable drinking containers or delivered by a drinking fountain so that employees do not share drinking containers. Where drinking fountains are provided, these and the filters should be regularly tested, cleaned, changed and maintained.

To access and download the Compliance Code for Workplace facilities and the working environment go to this page on the WorkSafe Victoria website.

September 2020 Ruling on breaks supports rights of workers to get a drink, go to the toilet

Employers have a WHS obligation to allow workers access to toilet and drinking facilities and cannot restrict such access to scheduled breaks, the Federal Court has confirmed after finding a major employer misled young workers on this issue in a Facebook post. Without going into too much detail, the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) launched proceedings against Brisbane-based McDonald's franchisee Tantex Holdings Pty Ltd after its general manager said on a staff Facebook page that if workers wanted to enforce the 10-minute-break rule then this break would "be the only time you would ever be permitted to have a drink or go to the toilet." Workers had complained that they were not getting their scheduled breaks. 

Justice John Logan found Tantex had breached the Fair Work Act, and said, "Denial of access as needed to toilet facilities or drinking water could, as a matter of ordinary life experience, have adverse health and safety ramifications for an employee and thus enliven the primary statutory duty of an employer found in section 19 of the [Queensland] WHS Act."
Read more: Retail and Fast Food Workers Union Incorporated v Tantex Holdings Pty Ltd [2020] FCA 1258 (31 August 2020)

Last amended March 2024