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Routine flushing

Routine flushing ensures a regular flow of water through the water distribution system allowing any chemical disinfectants to enter the outlets within a water distribution system while reducing water stagnation, biofilm development and bacterial growth.

When to undertake routine flushing

Routine flushing is recommended to occur on a scheduled basis, for example, in unoccupied rooms at least every second day, while for an occupied room flushing may only be required if the patient/resident was unable to use the bathroom. It should form part of, and be undertaken in accordance with, your water risk management plan (WRMP).

Where to undertake routine flushing

Your WRMP should include the identification of all outlets. Since any fixture, fitting or length of pipe within a facility presents a risk of water stagnation, it is important to consider all distal, sentinel and unused outlets to be routinely flushed.

Examples include but are not limited to:

  • showers and basins in unoccupied patient/resident rooms
  • taps in common or recreational areas that are not frequently used e.g. office areas with hand washing facilities, rooms with a changed purpose from an active location to storage
  • sluice room basins and sinks
  • other locations such as safety showers, eyewash stations, filter or system component bypasses, garden/external taps.

Who should undertake routine flushing

Routine flushing should be undertaken by competent staff. It can be performed as part of routine cleaning e.g. during the cleaning of a patient’s/resident’s room.

Steps

Main steps for routine flushing should meet the following criteria:

  • Turn each cold water outlet on and run for a minimum of 60 seconds. Turn tap off.
  • Turn each warm or hot water outlet on and run water until a steady temperature is achieved or for 60 seconds, whichever is the greater.
  • If flushing is carried out at low volume then it needs to go for longer to ensure all the water in the branch line to and from the thermostatic mixing valve is replaced.
  • If the room is occupied, flush at a low volume to avoid creating aerosols, but increase the time to 2 minutes.
  • For mixer taps, run the water at both the maximum and minimum temperature for 60 seconds.
  • Take extra care with showers that have flexible hoses. Although the flexible hose will not completely drain, where possible, leave the shower head in a position that enables it to drain (note – the shower head should not be closer than 10 cm from the floor).
  • If discolouration or odour is noticed while flushing then continue flushing until the water is clear and/or the odour is gone. If either persists the outlet should be isolated and the plumbing investigated.
  • Flush the toilet with the toilet lid down.

Record keeping

In accordance with your WRMP, details of where, when, what was flushed (e.g. tap/shower), by whom and any additional comments (discolouration or unusual odour) should be recorded.

Caution

  • Ensure no outlets are missed.
  • Try to minimise production of aerosols during flushing procedure.
  • Outlets that are not routinely flushed will become dead legs (filled with stagnant water which will increase the risk of biofilm development and bacterial growth which in turn may become a source of contamination to the rest of your water distribution system).

Resources

Last updated: 20 January 2017