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Reverse Osmosis (RO)Avoiding Water Regulation Pitfalls: Essential Tips for Dental Practices

Recently, I visited a client for a routine legionella risk assessment review. They mentioned that Anglian Water had conducted an unannounced water regulations inspection. Indeed, such unexpected visits from water suppliers are legal.

The inspection highlighted concerns about backflow protection in their reverse osmosis (RO) unit, specifically the absence of a double check valve on the cold water supply and no air gap on the RO unit's drainage line. These issues were also noted in my previous assessment, indicating a broader problem. Dental practices often rely on engineers and external companies for equipment installation, assuming they are fully qualified and aware of regulations. This incident, however, underscores the importance of conducting thorough due diligence on contractors.

Anglian Water
Water Regulations

Over the years, our inspections of thousands of dental practices have shown a worrying trend: many have non-compliant RO unit installations, frequently installed by reputed 'Dental Specialists'. When advised to address these issues, the response from these specialists typically involves denying any fault, which is misleading. This situation likely arises from either intentional misinformation or a lack of adequate training among the engineers, highlighting the need for vigilance and informed decision-making in hiring practices.


To tackle this, I created an online training module on Backflow Protection and Fluid Categories, available for free. Regrettably, the industry has shown little interest in enhancing their knowledge. This post is intended to educate our clients and followers, encouraging you to perform basic checks on the qualifications and experience of dental engineers and suppliers. When hiring engineers for water system work, ensure they can provide proof of their training and knowledge of the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999, including fluid categories and backflow protection.

RO Unit Backflow Protection

What can you do to safeguard your practice against 'cowboys' and elevate standards?


It's essential to thoroughly vet your contractor. When choosing external engineers and contractors, ensure you conduct due diligence and request evidence of adequate insurance, staff training, risk assessments, and method statements, which all competent engineers should be able to provide. Don't just hire them based on their 20+ years of experience in the dental industry. Practices that were acceptable 20 years ago may not be acceptable now.


So, when having an RO unit installed, make sure you receive written confirmation from the dental engineer that the installation complies with the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations and that the unit is equipped with adequate backflow protection on the cold water supply line and drainage pipework.


Lastly, remember that when installing an RO unit, you or your engineer should consult your water supplier to determine if you need their approval before starting work or if you should notify them once the installation is complete. For more information, visit WaterSafe.

Finally, a message to engineers working on water systems in dental practices: When installing equipment, avoid blindly using standard valves provided with the equipment. Manufacturers often produce equipment for various markets, and while standard valves are supplied, their instruction manuals typically state, "Ensure that the equipment is installed in accordance with local water regulations." At this juncture, it is the responsibility of a competent engineer to understand how to install the unit so that the installation complies with the regulations.


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