Case Study – A failed ball-cock saturates a listed Waterstone’s bookshop

Waterstone’s, the book shop, has a magnificent Edwardian store in Gower Street, London, which was designed by architect Charles Fitzroy Doll. It has a mass of complex detail and is listed Grade 2.

In January 2012, George Allan visited the store on a book-shopping trip and was disturbed to see out of a window on the back stairs that water was pouring out of an overflow on the third floor, saturating the wall below. He drew it to the attention of staff.

Three months later, he visited the store again. He was appalled to see that the water was still pouring out of the overflow: nothing had been done to fix it. The Duty Manager explained that she had no power to authorise the repairs – which George estimated at £10 plus labour – and had to process any requests for maintenance work through several layers of management.

George decided to write to the Operations Manager asking for it to be dealt with and duly dispatched an email and a photo of the overflow. He estimated that the rate of flow was 1.5 litres a minute and it could well have been running for 12 months – meaning that it had wasted some 750,000 litres of water.

He drew attention to Waterstone’s Health & Safety duties to carry out routine inspections and keep its buildings in repair and questioned whether staff were adequately empowered to deal with such problems. A few days later, he received an apologetic email confirming that the problem was indeed a failed ball-cock and had been dealt with. There was no reply on Waterstone’s health & safety compliance.

(In January 2015, a Waterstone’s employee was killed by a defective signboard which fell on her at the company’s Blackpool shop. The inquest heard of a 30-year sequence of poor installation and maintenance.)

By | 2018-03-08T11:18:41+00:00 January 13th, 2018|General, Maintenance, News|