With developments in all areas of heath, safety and environment within the workplace, having accurate, reliable and verifiable information is critical. So, when it comes to deciding on whether or not to fully implement and rely on these sorts of systems as a control measure, there are specific elements you should consider (see below). You will also need to have sufficient data that the system is accurate and effective, prior to full implementation, i.e. using both the automated sensor system and a manual check for several months and a detailed comparison of the results.
- Remote sensor technology does not fully remove the need for manual checks of your water system or for the need for engineers to attend site. Our experience has found that even if the need to temperature test is eliminated, there is often still an engineer visiting weekly for fire alarm checks and other maintenance tasks, where the temperature monitoring task would have often paired up with such inspections. In these cases, the cost/labour benefits may not be as significant as first thought.
- Making sure that the correct sentinel outlets are accurately identified for the sensor placement is vital - remember these can and do change too. Is the system costed per location? If so, this can build up quickly for more complex buildings and sites with multiple hot water systems.
- How are these sensors powered and how do they communicate the data? Is the signal strength (of the Wi-Fi or alternative system) consistent and reliable for the data transmission? Batteries will need someone to replace them.
- How is the data displayed and reviewed? Does someone manually check it or does the system automatically flag out of parameter results? If this is managed by the software, how does it interpret results? Again, we have seen example graphs for a cold feed to a single washroom, which, when comparison is needed, may not be particularly helpful i.e. does the system only flag an issue with cold water temperature if the results are above 20°C, or will it recognise areas of significant heat gain such as the majority of results between 10-12°C and two locations at 18°C? That is what a well-designed monitoring form with a competent engineer at the tap achieves, can the software do this?
- How will issues be investigated and rectified? Will someone need a “call out” to attend site to investigate and carry out remedial works - something that would happen dynamically with an engineer on site.
- Another factor is “out of sight, out of mind” where there is a distinct lack of proactive time spent reviewing the data, it was all left to “the system”. This can see trend issues missed, action not taken early enough and so problems arise.
- Finally, what is the process to check the sensor for calibration/adjustment? What is the frequency and labour costs of doing this (actual need v specified)?
These systems can be an invaluable monitoring tool when used correctly and we have seen some successful implementations on site, but our experience shows what works for some may not work for others. When considering alternative control measures, the systems should be looked at in detail and compared with the individual water systems; effectiveness has to be demonstrated by sufficient data, you are relying on it after all!