What is an Authorising Engineer (Water)?

by Water Hygiene Centre, on 30-05-2024
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Authorising Engineer AE 750 x 375

The title “Authorising Engineer (Water)” is not new. It has been used for some time in industry and also in the Ministry of Defence, where high-risk activities require a competent individual to oversee and provide assurance with respect to the competency of operatives, and the adequate implementation of rules and procedures.  

This need is defined in the MoD and Defence Safety Authority’s guidance Management of health and safety in defence: high-risk activities on the defence estate (JSP 375 part 2, volume 3)


For most of us, we have come across the title ‘Authorising Engineer’ in the HTM00 “Policies and principles of healthcare engineering” from the Department of Health and its supporting HTM documents.


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The Institute of Healthcare Engineering and Estate Management (IHEEM) define Authorising Engineers as: “a key part of the professional support required to ensure the staff employed in the operation and maintenance of the key engineering services in the healthcare estate are competent.”


What is the role of the Authorising Engineer [Water]?

The role of the Authorising Engineer in healthcare estates management depends on the individual service specialism. These roles are documented in the relevant Health Technical Memoranda [HTM]. HTM00 “Policies and principles of healthcare engineering” providing general guidance applicable to all services as follows:

    • the AE acts as an independent professional advisor;Authorising Engineer AE 749x499

    • the AE provides services following the relevant HTM;

    • the professional status and role of the AE may vary for different specialisms;

    • the AE acts as an assessor and makes recommendations for the appointment of Authorised Person(s);

    • the AE monitors the performance of the service;

    • the AE provides an annual Water Safety Audit to the Designated Person;

    • Agrees the level of safety, quality and process support for “specialist installation”

    • Remains independent from the organisation and its operational structure, especially regarding the audit process.

Whilst there
are similarities between disciplines, the precise requirements of the AE role will vary dependent on the specifics of each discipline. HTM04-01: Safe Water in Healthcare Premises does not provide much further detail with respect to the role of the AE(W) but it states clearly that they will also be a member of the Water Safety Group (WSG).


‘The AE acts as an independent professional advisor’

For an AE to be effective, it is understood that they should be independent of the organisational management structure of concern. This ensures they can comment constructively on the performance of the service without prejudice.


Organisational management should also consider whether an AE is sufficiently independent of direct benefits from the sale of additional services; whether these be physical measures or inspection and testing services. AE services are provided in a commercial environment and very few individuals can claim absolute independence.


It is the role of organisational management to satisfy themselves that their chosen AE is free from inappropriate bias. Perhaps one important distinction would be the separation of advisory services such as design review, auditing, Legionella risk assessments and Legionella training versus hard services such as alterations, installations, water treatment and the servicing of plant & equipment.


The Water Hygiene Centre is on occasion asked to endorse products and/or recommend contractors. This is not in keeping with the independent nature of the role and in these instances, the AE must remain objective although can assist the client in developing a robust process for the selection of products and service providers.


Choosing an Authorising Engineer (Water)

AE(W)s combine specialist knowledge of engineering, building services, microbiology and health and safety to support organisations in meeting their compliance objectives.


The Institute of Healthcare Engineering and Estate Management [IHEEM] coordinates a register of Authoring Engineers for the healthcare estates sector. Candidates wishing to become registered AEs may apply to the IHEEM and registers are held for the following disciplines:


  • Electrical
  • Decontamination
  • Medical gases
  • Water
  • Ventilation


Registered AEs agree to comply with the “IHEEM Code of Professional Conduct”, which applies to all IHEEM members, and in addition, are subject to the “Code and Rules of Conduct and Disciplinary Regulations for Registered Authorising Engineers”.


The use of the title ‘Authorising Engineer’ is not protected by law in the UK and whether registered or unregistered, the range of providers now offering AE services continues to grow. Choosing the right AE(W) for your organisation is now, more than ever, key to the success of the organisation’s water safety programme.

Authorising Engineer WaterA concern for many organisations requiring an Authorising Engineer for water services is that there are simply too few registered AE(W)s to satisfy the demand. This has led to the water safety industry backfilling with AEs not registered with IHEEM. It must also be said, however, that there is no requirement for an AE(W) to be registered with any organisation. Water Hygiene Centre AEs are not currently IHEEM registered, however, we employ a team of Senior Consultants who offer comprehensive AE(W) services and form our AE ‘Hivemind’.


It should be noted that many widely respected AE(W)s are not registered but this lack of regulation means it is left to the Responsible Person and/or the Designated Person to establish that their chosen AE(W) is suitably qualified, experienced, skilled and in possession of other qualities appropriate to the role. It is important to have that robust water safety support when it is most needed, particularly when urgent action is necessary and critical decisions are being undertaken. The benefit of having access to an AE when you need such support is clear and choosing an AE(W) service with resilience could make a big difference.


Water Hygiene Centre offers a structured AE(W) service including a range of components aimed at achieving and maintaining compliance with current legislation and guidance. Support is provided throughout the AE contract period including regular attendance at Water Safety Group (WSGs) meetings. The frequency of this attendance can be tailored to organisational needs. Water Hygiene Centre offers strength in depth through our team of qualified Authorising Engineers (Water) providing a service with genuine national coverage. 


For more information about the Water Hygiene Centre and our Authorising Engineer (Water) service click here


Editors Note: The information provided in this blog is correct at the date of original publication – January 2018. (Revised May 2024)


© Water Hygiene Centre 2024

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About the author

Water Hygiene Centre

The Water Hygiene Centre was established in 2009 to address the lack of independent water hygiene consultancy within the industry. From our humble beginnings, we have established ourselves as a market leader, helping clients identify and minimise the risk of waterborne contamination and disease, whilst improving compliance performance.

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