Employee health and well-being are paramount in any workplace. One often overlooked aspect of this is the availability of proper restroom facilities.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognizes the importance of this necessity for workers and has established regulations regarding restrooms, including access to portable facilities when permanent restrooms are not available.
“OSHA requires employers to provide all workers with sanitary and immediately available toilet facilities (restrooms),” explains OSHA. “The sanitation standards (29 CFR 1910.141, 29 CFR 1926.51, and 29 CFR 1928.110) are intended to ensure that workers do not suffer adverse health effects that can result if toilets are not sanitary and/or are not available when needed.”
Portable toilets are essential to provide temporary sanitation solutions for outdoor events, construction sites, and disaster relief efforts. It’s a growing business, driven in areas like Texas by the construction boom, with a recent study estimating the global portable toilet market at $13.6 billion last year and expected to almost double to $25 billion by 2030.
Employee Access to Restrooms and Portable Toilets: It’s the Law
Many employers do not understand that OSHA has specific regulations regarding restrooms and portable toilet access for employees.
“Employers must provide at least the minimum number of toilet facilities, in toilet rooms separate for each sex, and prompt access to the facilities when needed. Restroom access frequency needs may vary significantly from worker to worker, and may be affected by medications, fluid intake, air temperature, and other factors,” says OSHA.
- Allow workers to leave their work locations to use a restroom when needed.
- Provide an adequate number of restrooms for the size of the workforce to prevent long lines.
- Avoid imposing unreasonable restrictions on restroom use.
- Ensure restrictions, such as locking doors or requiring workers to sign out a key, do not cause extended delays.
Companies can run afoul of these OSHA requirements such as Dollar General which was hit with proposed $324,000 in penalties in July 2023 for violations including a store that did not have a working employee restroom.
Employer Restroom Flexibility for Construction, Agriculture, and Mobile Workers
Just because an employer has workers in situations without permanent restrooms, that does not mean they do not have to provide facilities.
“Employers may need to be flexible in developing procedures to ensure that workers have access to toilet facilities as needed. Employers with mobile workers must provide readily available transportation that provides prompt access (i.e., less than 10 mins) to restrooms if they are not available at the work location,” said OSHA.
Toilets for farm workers must be located no more than a quarter mile from the location where workers are working on similar findings.
Also, when workstations require constant coverage (e.g., production lines and bus drivers), employers may implement a system for workers to request relief as long as there are sufficient relief workers to ensure the wait is not unreasonably long.
Portable Restrooms Offer the Solution to OSHA Regs
Fortunately for employers, there are portable restroom solutions such as what The Texas Loo offers that will keep them on the right side of the law and keep them in the good graces of their hard-working employees.
OSHA 1926.51(c) outlines toilets at construction job sites saying that toilets shall be provided for employees according to the following table:
- 20 or less employees: Minimum number of facilities 1
- 20 or more employees: 1 toilet seat and 1 urinal per 40 workers
- 200 or more employees: 1 toilet seat and 1 urinal per 50 workers.
“Under temporary field conditions, provisions shall be made to assure not less than one toilet facility is available,” says the OSHA regulations.
Job sites, not provided with a sanitary sewer, shall be provided with one of the following toilet facilities unless prohibited by local codes:
- Privies (where their use will not contaminate ground or surface water).
- Chemical toilets.
- Recirculating toilets.
- Combustion toilets.
Keep in mind that these OSHA laws on portable restrooms are different from their general standards when it comes to permanent facilities. OSHA 1910.141(c) states that water closets should be provided on the following basis:
- 1 to 15 employees: 1
- 16 to 35 employees: 2
- 36 to 55 employees: 3
- 56 to 80 employees: 4
- 81 to 110 employees: 5
- 111 to 150 employees: 6
- Over 150 employees: 1 additional fixture for each additional 40 employees.
Special OSHA Restroom Rules for Agricultural Workers
OSHA had special restroom regulations for agricultural employees.
As found in 1928.110 (c), employers must make sure that there are:
- One toilet facility and one handwashing facility shall be provided for each twenty (20) employees or fraction thereof (with an exception for employees who perform field work for a period of three hours or less, including transportation to and from the field, each day).
- Toilet facilities shall be adequately ventilated, appropriately screened, have self-closing doors that can be closed and latched from the inside, and shall be constructed to ensure privacy.
- Toilet and handwashing facilities shall be accessibly located and in close proximity to each other. The facilities shall be located within a one-quarter-mile walk of each hand laborer's place of work in the field.
- Where due to terrain it is not feasible to locate facilities as required above, the facilities shall be located at the point of closest vehicular access.
Toilet and handwashing facilities are not required for employees who perform field work for a period of three hours or less (including transportation time to and from the field) during the day.
Potable drinking water and toilet and handwashing facilities shall be maintained in accordance with appropriate public health sanitation practices, including the following:
- Drinking water containers shall be constructed of materials that maintain water quality, shall be refilled daily or more often as necessary, shall be kept covered, and shall be regularly cleaned.
- Toilet facilities shall be operational and maintained in clean and sanitary condition.
- Handwashing facilities shall be refilled with potable water as necessary to ensure an adequate supply and shall be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition.
- Disposal of wastes from facilities shall not cause unsanitary conditions.
The employer shall notify each employee of the location of the sanitation facilities and water and shall allow each employee reasonable opportunities during the workday to use them. The employer also shall inform each employee of the importance of each of the following good hygiene practices to minimize exposure to the hazards in the field of heat, communicable diseases, retention of urine, and agrichemical residues:
- Use the water and facilities provided for drinking, handwashing, and elimination.
- Drink water frequently, especially on hot days.
- Urinate as frequently as necessary.
- Wash hands both before and after using the toilet.
Why Portable Restrooms Can Make a Difference
Portable restrooms can have benefits for both employees and employers.
Employee health and well-being are critical for several reasons. A healthy and comfortable workforce is more productive, experiences lower turnover rates, and contribute to a positive workplace culture.
When employees have access to clean and safe restroom facilities, they are more likely to stay hydrated and take regular breaks, which can improve overall productivity and reduce the risk of health issues like dehydration and urinary tract infections.
Moreover, inadequate restroom facilities can lead to discomfort, stress, and even health problems for employees. This can negatively impact morale and job satisfaction, which in turn affects performance and retention rates.
Therefore, it's in the best interest of both employees and employers to ensure that appropriate restroom facilities are provided and maintained. And it’s the law!