Given the impact of accidents can be severe, water utilities must meet tight regulations, and Benchmax helps with compliance management.
In the hierarchy of needs, access to clean water is always one of the fundamental elements for human life. And as a result, this means that water utilities are some of the most tightly regulated companies in modern industrial economies. When it comes to risk assessments, these utilities know that the impact of accidents could be severe. Whether it's a spillage of chemicals into the water supply, or sewage leakage during a flood, they need to mitigate against harms to human health. In this blog, we'll be taking a closer look at the regulations in the sector, and how Benchmax can help water utilities to meet them.
UK water utilities have been in private hands for decades
In the UK, the Water Act 1989 transformed the water utilities sector by providing for the privatisation of former government water authorities. This and subsequent acts of parliament created a system where the Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) maintains economic regulation of water utilities. It has a wide remit over water supply, sewerage services, drinking water quality, environmental standards, customer service, and flood and drought protection and adaptation.
Sitting alongside Ofwat, the Environment Agency conducts enforcement activity in relation to environmental offences. The formal options include a written warning, enforcement notices, undertaking a prosecution, issuing a Variable Monetary Penalty, or accepting an Enforcement Undertaking (EU) offer.
And of course, given international ownership of water utilities in the UK, it's worth bearing in mind different regulations around the world. This further complicates the position of water utilities towards risk. After all, when it comes to risk assessments, it's always a question of probability of risk event and severity of impact. The problem for water utilities is that the impact of accidents can be very severe.
Regulations with an impact
Water utilities need to mitigate a range of identified risks, even if the probability of such events is low. For instance, there may be all sorts of mechanisms to stop spillage of harmful chemicals into the water supply, but it could be catastrophic if it does take place. Similarly, maintaining flood defences for sewage plants usually works on the basis of floods that are 10-, 50- or 100-year events. This makes it all the more harmful when such floods do take place. At the other end of the scale, there are events that are more frequent but whose impact is less severe, which also need mitigation. With ageing water distribution infrastructure, water utilities must constantly work to reduce leakage from water supply and sewage pipes.
The UK's regulatory authorities have teeth. In the five years to 2020, UK water regulators handed down prosecution fines of £32.2 million (US$43.9 million) across the sector. Additionally, over the same period, enforcement undertakings amounted to £10.6 million (US$14.4 million). And most recently, courts handed down a record £90 million (US$122.6 million) fine for one water utility for deliberately dumping billions of litres of raw sewage into the sea (read the full story here). In other words, failure to meet regulations is business-critical for water utilities.
Benchmax compliance management can keep water running safely
Given how important it is for them to follow regulations, it's essential for water utilities to have clear strategies to stay compliant. With Benchmax to assist them, water utilities can formulate all their risk processes to keep regulators happy and customers safe. The system provides operations teams with insight into the performance of people, processes, and assets against standards across water utilities. With access levels for workers, admin staff, verifiers, business decision-makers, and external auditors, Benchmax provides a range of views to demonstrate compliance, across all business locations or drilling down into individual sites.
Using self-assessment and verifier grading, Benchmax provides comparative scores against specific tasks. Individual achievements are reflected in real time, so water utilities can see who has achieved the required compliance level. This insight can map additional training exactly where it is required to improve overall scores. And by seeing performance blockers/drivers on key issues, water utilities can resolve such problems as consistency or scheduling. Water utilities need compliance management - and Benchmax fits the bill.
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To find out more about how Benchmax can work in the water utilities sector, contact one of the team today.
Post by Hugo Newman, Multimedia Content Developer, Sysmax
Hugo develops the media content for Sysmax and our principal products and looks after the front-end development work for Benchmax. He also created and maintains the online help material available to clients ensuring they are able to maximise the opportunities that our market-leading suite of products offer.