COVID-19 Property Services

COVID-19 Property Services

Required Water Checks for Returning Authority-Maintained Schools in Buckinghamshire after a Period of Full or Partial Closure

Within the Council’s school estate there are 2 types of water supply system; either:

  1. a) directly-fed supply from the mains, or
  2. b) delivered via water storage tanks within the system.

As part of the process of ‘re-opening’ schools there must be mitigation against any risk of Legionella and schools are reminded of their responsibilities for continuing to carry out their required regular basic checks, concerning both flushing and temperature, of all water systems within their premises. These checks, as described in the attached appendix, should of course have been maintained by all schools throughout the period of ‘full or partial closure’ as was specifically advised by Property Services from the onset of the current situation. The school’s heating systems should also have been left on as part of that advice.

If these checks have been maintained, together with the advised additional regular flushing regime, the ‘re-opening’ of their premises should be relatively easy for the majority of schools to achieve, as far as the safety of the water supply is concerned.

In order to prepare for ‘wider opening’ the following certain works must be carried out on all school premises by the schools themselves. Schools will not be able to re-open unless these measures have taken place:

Measures for every school

All existing water outlets throughout the school must be thoroughly flushed through for at least 2 minutes each to move water around the entire system and through every outlet – taps, toilets etc.

All equipment that produces water droplets such as shower heads, spray taps and hoses must be dismantled, cleaned and de-scaled by soaking for at least 12 hours in an approved de-scaler before being reassembled and thoroughly flushed through.

Provided the above 2 points are carried out as directed all the primary schools which are direct mains-fed will be OK to be re-opened as required for the beginning of June 2020 and water sampling will not be required.

Additional measures for those schools with water storage tanks

Property Service’s ongoing programme of removing water storage tanks is not quite complete so there are still a few remaining schools in the estate where tanks still exist within their water systems. These will require some further precautionary works to be carried out by contractors commissioned by Property Services. This will involve disinfection of the system and tanks to ensure that no water has been allowed to stagnate. Water samples will then need to be tested. These schools will shortly be contacted direct by the contractors to arrange access as soon as possible to carry out this work. Please ensure that the contractors are afforded access when required in order that this work can be carried out within the very tight timescale.


The school must keep accurate records for potential inspection of all the required checks being carried out and when.

Legionella - A reminder of School Responsibilities

With regard to the prevention of legionella within school water systems schools are required to carry out a number of basic checks and maintain appropriate records:

Required Weekly Checks

Schools are required to flush through and purge to drain all little-used outlets, without release of an aerosol or splashing, eg keep lid down on toilet.

Required Monthly Checks

  1. i) For hot water services – check that the hot water temperature is greater than 50°C at both the first and last taps on a pipe run within a room, ie the nearest and furthest points from the heat source (boiler, calorifier, or storage tank).
  2. ii) For cold water services – check that the cold water temperature after running for 2 minutes is less than 20°C from the first and last taps on a pipe run within that room.

iii) How to take these temperatures using an approved thermometer is explained and demonstrated in the regular H&S legionella seminars provided.

  1. iv) Where they are fitted all thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs) are to be checked so that the input water supply to the valve should be at least 50°C within 1 minute and the output water supply from the supply from the TMV to the appliance should be between 41°C and 45°C, whilst the distance from the TMV to the outlet should not exceed 1 metre in length.

Required Quarterly Checks

  1. i) Equipment that produces water droplets (mists) such as shower heads, spray taps and hoses, must be dismantled, cleaned and de-scaled regularly, and the cleaning regime recorded.
  2. ii) For hot water cylinders (calorifiers) there is a need to keep the flow temperature (outlet) above 60°C and a return temperature of not less than 50°C.

iii) For point-of-use heaters the water temperatures require checking to confirm the heater operates at 50°C-60°C or confirmation that the installation is in near constant use including  holidays and weekends.

Required Annual Checks (carried out by a specialist contractor)

The specialist contractors as commissioned by Property Services carry out the following during their inspection:

  1. i) That TMVs are cleaned and serviced on an annual basis.
  2. ii) That internal surfaces of hot water storage tanks or calorifiers are examined and cleaned and de-sludged where required.

iii) That all internal surfaces of cold water storage tanks are examined, cleaned and disinfected when required.

The Importance of the School Keeping Records

  1. i) To demonstrate compliance with the law.
  2. ii) To show what control measures are being taken.

iii) To monitor water temperatures, system cleanliness, bacteria levels (if appropriate)

  1. iv) To show trend analysis and learn more about the systems.
  2. v) To inform performance review of the systems.
  3. vi) To provide evidence of reducing the risk of Legionella.

The following guidance for managing school premises, which are partially open, during COVID-19 was sent to all Local Authorities by Rory Kennedy, Director of Capital at the Department for Education on the 22nd April. 

Download the full letter

During partial or full closure, educational settings continue to be responsible for a range of health and safety measures and statutory compliance.  See DfE Good Estate Management for Schools Health and Safety page

Guidance for managing school premises, which are partially or fully closed

It is important that arrangements remain in place to ensure that children and staff are in safe buildings during reduced occupancy arrangements. Educational settings should review their arrangements for all building related systems but in particular the following:

  • Hot and cold water systems
  • Gas Safety
  • Fire Safety
  • Kitchen Equipment
  • Security including access control and intruder alarm systems

Staff should be familiar with “Guidance for schools about temporarily closing” on and work with their responsible bodies to ensure that statutory health and safety arrangements are in place

There are increased risks related to safety concerns around water hygiene, building and occupancy safety and building hygiene due to reduced occupancy. Follow the guidance below to manage these risks.

Contact your contractors and suppliers to check on any special interim arrangements in place due to COVID-19.

In all educational settings, a member of staff should be identified with responsibility for managing premises. In cases of staff illness, cover arrangements should be put in place as soon as possible. The key areas for attention are listed below.

Cold water systems - including tanks, sinks/basins/showers and drinking water outlets (taps and water fountains)

  • Do not drain down systems.
  • Increase frequency of outlet flushing and temperature monitoring to maintain water quality within the entire system. If required, consider additional water quality testing at water outlets (closest and further from the main water source) and drinking water outlets that remain in use.

Domestic hot water services – including calorifiers/direct fired water heaters/ sinks/ basins/ showers

  • Do not drain down systems, hot water generation servicing to continue in line with manufacturers’ criteria.
  • Water temperatures must be kept within limits recommended for the control of legionella bacteria in water systems. For reference, use the Approved Code of Practice & HSG 274.
  • Regularly check hot water generation for functionality and if required, temperature recording.
  • If the hot water system has been left operational the hot water should be circulating as normal and regular checks, in line with guidance, should be carried out.

Gas safety

  • Do not isolate gas supplies to boilers and hot water generation
  • To avoid the risk of leaks and dangerous build-up of gases, isolate gas supplies where not in use, e.g. science labs and prep rooms, design and food technology classrooms, and school kitchens. Otherwise, gas services should remain in normal operation
  • Continue planned gas safety checks including gas detection/interlocking

Fire safety

You must review and if necessary, update your fire management plans and ensure any changes to fire escape routes are clearly identified and communicated. During the reduced occupancy period you must:

  • Carry out weekly checks of alarms systems, call points, and emergency lighting;
  • Carry out regular hazard spotting to identify escape route obstructions;
  • Check that all fire doors are operational.

Fire drills should continue to be held as normal

Kitchen equipment

Equipment that holds water, for example dishwashers and combination ovens, should be run through at least a full cleaning cycle per week, to remove scale build up and standing water build up, to pre-empt possible bacteria growth.


All areas of the school should be kept secure. Access to certain closed areas should only be possible by relevant staff – for example science laboratories, chemical stores and IT rooms. Check that access control and lockdown systems are operational.


  • All systems to remain energised in normal operating mode.
  • Where mechanical ventilation is present, recirculatory systems should be adjusted to full fresh air. If mechanical ventilation systems cannot be adjusted to full fresh air these should be switched off.
  • Where possible, occupied room windows should be open.
  • Ventilation to chemical stores should remain operational.

Other points to consider

  • Core building-related electrical systems, including internal and external lighting, small power, CCTV, access control and alarm systems (fire, intruder, panic and accessible toilets) to remain in use/energised in normal operating mode.
  • For drainage systems, check traps have not dried out and ensure water seals are in place to prevent smells within the building e.g. hygiene rooms, sports hall showers etc.
  • Update your key holder information. Intruder alarm / lift/ fire alarm companies often have remote monitoring stations (response centres) – follow advice from these providers.
  • Continue with all regular cleaning, enhanced disinfection appropriate for COVID-19, maintenance, testing and statutory compliance activities.
  • Continue carrying out a thorough examination and testing of lifting and pressure equipment during the coronavirus outbreak following updated HSE guidance

Re-opening after a lengthy closure

Before resuming normal operation, commission a water treatment specialist to chlorinate and flush the complete system for all hot and cold-water systems (including drinking water) and certify the water system is safe before the buildings are reoccupied. Allow sufficient time for this activity; approx. 1 week before opening if possible.

Recommission all systems before re-opening, as would normally be done after a long holiday period. This includes gas, heating, water supply, mechanical and electrical systems, and catering equipment.

To ensure fire safety, check:

  • All fire doors are operational;
  • Fire alarm system and emergency lights operational.

Clean and disinfect all areas and surfaces prior to reopening and if necessary, utilise pest control for insect infestations, particularly in kitchen/food preparation areas. Deep clean the kitchen prior to reopening before food preparation resumes.

Further information on maintenance arrangements

More detailed information on maintenance arrangements can be found in Good Estate Management for Schools, in the section on maintenance checks and testing checks.

Further guidance from the government is available on Site Security.

What are the requirements for School Buildings which will be unoccupied for 30 days or more - as required by Insurance & Property Services?

If a school building is to be left unoccupied due to the current Covid-19 situation, or indeed otherwise, the following measures must be put in place by the school. It should be pointed out of course that most of the measures listed below should be being followed by the school anyway regardless of whether the building is occupied or not:

(a) The property is to be thoroughly inspected weekly, both internally and externally, recording any defects found and arranging for rectification without delay. (School responsibility but Property Services can assist in emergency)

(b) NB: It is crucial that all individual water outlets, taps, shower heads and toilets etc are still to be flushed once a week to avoid any build-up of legionella bacteria in water systems but the regular water temperature checks are not required whilst the building remains unused. (School responsibility) 

(c) All external doors and accessible windows must have good quality locks to secure the property. (School responsibility but Property Services can help arrange contractor if required in an emergency)

(d) Services are not to be disconnected as they are required for keeping fire and intruder alarms active as well as allowing minimal heat to remain on. (Property Services will arrange if any services do still require disconnection)

(e) Minimal heating is required so please ensure your plant is set to frost protection levels and ensure thermostats are (in place), checked and left on. (School responsibility but Property Services can arrange assistance)

(f) All letter boxes must be sealed. (School responsibility)

(g) Please ensure that all internal doors are kept closed. (School responsibility)

(h) Unplug at the socket any electronic goods such as photocopiers and remove from site any items stored in fridges. (School responsibility)

(i) Any valuables (including IT equipment) must be stored away from sight and any portable equipment locked away. (School responsibility)

{j) Do not use the property for storage unless first agreed with Insurance. (School responsibility)

(k) All perimeter fences, walls and gates are to be kept complete. (School responsibility)

(l) Buildings to be kept clear of combustible materials both internally and externally with refuse bins kept away from buildings and chained in position. (School responsibility)

(m) All surrounding vegetation is to be kept down. (School responsibility)

(n) Please ensure that you have informed Property Services’ Help Desk of your site’s up-to-date contact details and any information regarding access security codes etc if they should be required to enter the premises during this period (School responsibility)

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