Hello, I’m Peter, one of several Senior Consultants at the Water Hygiene Centre. I’m based in the East Midlands. I joined the company in 2010 and work with clients within both Central and Northern England.
Most of our clients are from either the public sector or public services organisations, where the management of compliance disciplines remains an important focus. These could include Acute NHS Trusts, Local Authorities, Universities, Housing Associations, Police and Fire services, etc.
What is an Authorising Engineer (Water)?
The Senior Consultant role primarily involves the provision of both Authorising Engineer (Water) and Retained Competent help for Water contracts. These contracts each involve various deliverables, including:
- Producing risk management/Water Safety Audits,
- Attending, and contributing to Water Safety Groups,
- Undertaking Legionella training,
- Providing Policy and Water Safety Plan advice,
- Project design reviews,
- Appraising the competency of Estates staff
And a whole host of other ad-hoc water safety-related queries.
At the beginning of each contractual year, deliverables are agreed with the client and then scheduled by me, based on risk and client need. Each of the service deliverables may also be provided as a standalone service.
Despite approximately 25 years in the water hygiene industry, I’ve found it vital to remind myself not to become complacent in my approach. However, I’m also confident I can provide the advice that clients ‘need’ based on relevant regulations and guidance, rather than what they ‘want’ to hear, or based on a personal opinion.
An Authorising Engineer (AE) is of course a ‘critical friend’ and whilst I’m not inclined to overreact to client failings, it’s also important to be direct when a line is crossed. Interpreting guidance over many years has also taught me the value of incorporating common sense, a logical approach, and delivering justifiable and hopefully pragmatic advice, (albeit perhaps a little conservative) that can be practically adopted in responding to client enquiries.
All Senior Consultants within the Water Hygiene Centre have differing backgrounds and strengths. Whilst I predominantly work autonomously and directly with my clients, we have an active ’AE Hive Mind’ within the company, ensuring all clients receive a clear and consistent water safety message. Despite often differing primary functions, all our clients have comparable concerns and hurdles to overcome. Although the Water Hygiene Centre would never claim to have all the answers, many years of consulting experience in different sectors have helped us establish which approaches are likely to work well, and which perhaps may not.
My day usually starts with a coffee, it won’t be the last. My diary is usually booked well in advance and one week can vary enormously from the next. On a Monday there is often work spilling over from the previous week and whilst my daily utilisation time is closely monitored, each day despite my diary schedule, can often twist and turn, following its own path.
Pre Covid, the AE role often involved perhaps 50% of the week spent on site, in the company of the client and actively looking at water systems, hand holding, providing measured assurance and reviewing and working within a client-specific framework for water safety.
Post Covid and with the much-increased use of Microsoft Teams or similar platforms for water safety group meetings and the like, interaction can be restricted to formal meetings. It is also fair to say the anticipated reduction in ‘downtime’ due to fewer face-to-face meetings hasn’t materialised and I’m no less busy. So, it’s important to guard against that face-to-face approach, which can be so beneficial to both parties, being reduced too much. Certain aspects of the AE’s role in particular auditing simply cannot be effectively undertaken at arm’s length via online meetings. Blood pressure allowing, I’ll have another coffee mid-morning.
Water Safety compliance involves much planned and reactive work, and my phone calls these days tend to focus on the reactive work which needs a speedy response. My email inbox will fluctuate in size from day to day and juggling demands from multiple clients remains a challenge. I’m constantly filtering and assessing my workload and trying to do this based on risk, rather than on which client is shouting the loudest.
Depending on the type of query, an immediate response may or may not be possible for many reasons. Within my core hours during the working day, I’ll try not to be disrupted by answering incoming emails or phone calls, to allow scheduled work to be completed as efficiently as I can. At lunchtime, I’ll make sure I step away from my laptop and have some fresh air to clear my head.
My day-to-day work overwhelmingly involves the delivery of Authorising Engineer (Water) and competent help services and despite offering key services necessary to aid and demonstrate adequate levels of compliance for clients - and being as flexible as I can be, I’ll also need to be mindful of ‘scope creep’.
Certain working days are certainly more straightforward than others, for example where training is planned either on-site or online, or auditing is undertaken and less stressful than bouncing from meeting to appraisal, to email and back again.
A key part of the AE’s role is also to ensure personal development work and or CPD is undertaken regularly, captured within our protected diary time. I must have adequate awareness of changes in the water hygiene industry, whether related to any new guidance, a new technical product or software, or even knowledge of a new service from the Water Hygiene Centre that can be passed on to our clients.
Lastly, I’m also indirectly involved in sales and marketing (including writing topical blogs) within the company and work enquires will often come direct to myself rather than to our head office.
I’d also emphasise that catching up with Water Hygiene Centre colleagues is vital in keeping me grounded, via regular internal MS Teams huddles, otherwise, I try to contact someone in our head office in Oxfordshire most days. Despite many challenging days and weeks in my role as a Senior Consultant, it continues to be very rewarding.
If you have questions regarding the issues raised above or you would like to speak with one of our consultants, please click here to get in touch.
Editor’s Note: The information provided in this blog is correct at the date of original publication – June 2023.
© Water Hygiene Centre 2023