Our industry has the unique challenge of providing handwashing stations that dispense clean, safe water while also servicing portable restrooms. While it is a challenge to maintain a completely sanitary environment, it is very possible if managed properly.
What do you need to do in order to provide safe water for your customers? The best place to begin is by creating a dedicated system for filling, storing, and transporting water that comes from a reliable source.
How is Water Contaminated?
Water can be contaminated in a number of ways. Existing groundwater conditions, problems with the water distribution system, or stagnation can all negatively impact the safety of the water. More likely, is that a handwash station’s water compartment, hoses, or other surfaces have a biofilm that is trapping bacteria, viruses, or cysts that cause diseases.
Pathogens (microorganisms that carry diseases) such as Fecal coliform and E. coli are bacteria found in feces and can cause water contamination. Some common health effects from exposure to these pathogens include diarrhea, vomiting, and cramps. These and many other issues can stem from not having safe water for washing hands!
What to Look For
You can use your sense of sight and smell to identify many problems. The presence of mildew on surfaces indicates the unit needs to be completely disinfected, preferably at the yard rather than in the field. Unusual odors are an indication the station needs disinfecting as well. Hoses and connectors within wash stations provide hidden surfaces for pathogens to collect and should be routinely disinfected as well.
Safe Water Source & Supply
First, you need to make sure the water supply used to fill your handwashing stations is from a known potable source. It should be from a municipal water system or a tested water system.
- Sanitizing Handwash Stations – In order to sanitize water for handwash stations, put dry chlorinating tablets containing 70% calcium hypochlorite in the water tank or handwash, and add water. This should kill any E. coli or salmonella in the water. The best way to maintain the appropriate level is to test the residual chlorine level with test strips.
- Sanitizing Holding Tanks – Holding tanks used to sanitize handwash water should be sanitized regularly as well. Chlorine tablets can be used to sanitize water and at higher doses, disinfect the water tank. They can be used in any water tank used to store water for handwashing. Be sure that the tank used for holding/transporting water is NSF of FDA rated molded plastic, or other approved material.
*Not recommended for steel, stainless steel, or aluminum tanks.
Changes in the Industry
The worldwide concern for safe water has really taken shape. Now more than ever, stricter regulations pertaining to handwashing are starting to emerge. States like California have even enacted regulations requiring contractors to have handwash stations at all building sites, with more states following suit.
The issue of water quality is at the forefront. with safe water being such a high priority to public health, we can continue to expect more regulation in the future.