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Drinks (soft) not allowed at work

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Good evening,

I work in a chilled (2 -3 degrees) food storage warehouse where I am employed to pack food, ready for distribution for mail order companies, and also to pick from the large warehouse fridges and freezers. All of the food is packaged.  Today we were told that we were not allowed to have any drinks in the warehouse areas, - when I asked why the reply was that it has always been a rule and that they were now going to start enforcing it.  Basically I'd like to know where we stand with this. 

Some background: We work 9.30 -5.30 with 1 half hour break at lunch, there is one staff room with a drinks and snack machine.  The water from the machine is free.  The walk to and from the drinks machine is probably about 4 mins, there and back, from our work station and the areas that we pick from.  With the covid situation no more than 6 people are allowed in there at any one time.  There are no other water stations around the warehouse.  We have targets that we have to meet with how many boxes we pack in an hour.  There is no union rep within the company that we can go to with any greviences, though I will be joining a union asap outside of the workplace.

Here are my thoughts (after having a google search) and I'd like to know where we stand and if I approach my manager am I being unreasonable:

We work in "stressed" conditions with it being so cold and it is manual work where we are walking, lifting and carrying constantly, it is easy to get dehydrated and the cold conditions do make your mouth dry.  From what I have read it is reasonable for them to ask us not to have drinks, but they should have reasonable access to free drinking water.  To me with the distance to the canteen and the Covid regulations that they have set I don't feel that we don't have "reasonable" access at all/any times.  I did ask if we could go and get a drink where the manager replied that they could not deny us getting a drink which is fine except it would have an impact upon our targets, so again I don't feel that this is reasonable as the NHS and Health/Safety guidelines seem to recommend drinking a litre during the working day, some sites say you should be drinking every 15 mins...the remainder can be made up at home, before and after work.

I would like to say to them that I consider it reasonable that soft drinks should not be permitted as I can understand that as we sell soft drinks it could easily be misconstrued as being stolen from the stores, but if we were to have water or juice in our own cannisters/flasks/bottles then it should not be a problem until such time that water dispensers can be located around the warehouse in convenient locations.  We have an area with work stations where they can be kept so as not to be carrying them around where it could be spilt and become a safety issue.  Would this be unreasonable?  I am not the only one questioning this, but I knew of this forum and the benefit that it has, so it's me making the enquiries.  Unfortunately, as a team of 15, we are all new employees and still under probation, so I'm aware that I don't want to be the "agitator", especially without back up, but I think if I can get us all together to approach them then they will not dismiss us all...I'll have to see how I feel once I have some answers from you guys. 

Thanks for any help, 



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I don't know what the answer is – and I'm hoping somebody will come and tell you one thing you should bear in mind – but maybe you don't need telling – is that once management make a certain decision if people come along to them and questioned that decision, management might start to feel challenged and your card might be marked!

This is probably something you should be very careful about

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Bankfodder - yep, I understand that...I think finally in this job I may not be the one shouting loudest ;)


Ethel street - I would agree If there was accessible water available at all times...but with the distance, covid restrictions and targets to be met I don't think that at the moment they are being reasonable with the jobs that we do.

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Lots of things in employment and Health & Safety  rules say the employer must do things that are "reasonable" but without defining what "reasonable" means. I guess it would be impossible to have laws that covered every situation.


For what it's worth there is an H&S regulation that says employers  must provide drinking water in the workplace - it's at the top of page 41 in this HSE guidance to employers https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/l24.pdf - but all it says is that drinking water must be "readily accessible at suitable places".  Your employer will probably say that the staff room is a "suitable place" so they comply with the regulations.


Note that it's only water that must be provided. There are no H&S regulations saying the employer must allow other types of drink. Nor does the regulation say you must be allowed to bring in your own drink.


Personally I think you are not in a strong position to object, but I'm not an HR person or a lawyer and I don't have any expert knowledge on this.

Edited by Ethel Street
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