Don't get caught with a dirty water cooler - keep it clean!

By: Esteb Rueda

Water is essential to life and a good water cooler is an absolute must for an office area. This is both a convenience and a place where employees can gather to have a brief chat. It's extremely important, therefore, that this office necessity be kept clean. People might not notice a sparkling clean water cooler but they will definitely notice a dirty one. Keeping the water cooler sanitary is a way to keep morale from going down. More than that, it keeps worker attendance up. Bacteria that are allowed to fester inside a water cooler can lead to illness related absence and because so many employees use this convenience in a given day, a considerable part of the work force may be calling in sick. No company executive in his or her right mind wants that to ever happen, and therefore cleaning out that water dispenser is a necessary maintenance activity for the work place.
Cleaning a dirty water cooler is an exercise in office sanitation. It requires using a bleach solution of approximately one tablespoon of bleach for every gallon of water, which by the way will require a rinsing of the reservoir with clean water to remove any bleach residue. The water bottle, of course, has to be removed. A good scrub brush and a fair amount of elbow grease is going to be needed and the worker should be wearing rubber gloves for safety. Special attention ought to be given to the interior reservoir, and not just to clean it but also to flush out any lingering bleach solution. Precautionary actions are part of the job. This corporate watering hole should be unplugged from any electric outlet and the air filter on the water cooler ought not to get wet.
The warning mentioned in the title about not getting caught is not an attempt at being funny at all. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulation 1992 puts a responsibility on the employer to provide an adequate amount of drinkable water for employees, and provide it safely. Consumer groups are serving notice that the public health is being placed at risk and safety regulations regarding plumbed in water coolers need to be tightened. While a health inspector might not shut down the facility, the public embarrassment of having dirty water coolers is there and should be avoided. And, cleaning the water cooler is not the same as cleaning out the toilets. A person can be assigned to perform the task on a routine basis, and the safety gear needed is very elementary. It isn't really that much of a bother and the job is definitely not rocket science.
It may seem small compared to other things that are so important in the office but a dirty water cooler can demotivate people and can be a definite health hazard. Besides, it really doesn't take that much to keep this work place convenience looking bright and shiny. It just takes a little consideration to small details in the office; nothing too hard about that at all.

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A water cooler is a good way to keep the work force supplied with water. However, as this article outlines, if not maintained correctly, it can cause a number of issues that are easy to avoid with a little maintenance work.

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