Are Your Toilets Legal?

21 June 2016

Legal toilets? Sounds like something a shifty-looking, cigar-smoking Delboy would try and sell you, “And, they flush too Rodderz!”

Hiring loos is easy isn’t it? You call the hiring company, place your order and they get delivered within a few days. Job done.

Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. The law is taking a dim view on employers and site contractors who don’t provide adequate toilet facilities to workers and users, so it is vital that you implement facilities that are fully compliant.

And, it isn’t the responsibility of the toilet supplier to make sure that it is compliant, it is down to the person who is hiring the unit/s to make sure it is.

Did you know?

  • Toilets on any site have to be of an ‘adequate standard’ by law
  • Toilets that aren’t of an ‘adequate standard’ could mean that the employer/person responsible for providing the facilities is breaking the law

The legal stuff

The current legislation, Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, covers a broad range of health and safety issues, with toilets and welfare being a main priority.

When an employer takes on staff (irrelevant of the time period, even for a day), they must by law provide ‘so far is reasonably practicable’ appropriate ‘welfare facilities’. These include washing, toilet, rest and a place to eat and drink.

It is the duty of the employer (or the event organiser responsible for toilets and welfare) to ensure that they are planning and adhering to the law and the relevant sectors within the legislation.

Not abiding by the current legislation has its consequences. The HSE are taking the issue of welfare at work seriously. Insufficient facilities can lead to prosecution and/or fines, leading to further problems, such as loss of trust from staff and customers, a bad reputation as an employer and even loss of revenue.

One building contractor in Bristol was fined £30,000 with an additional £3,500 costs for failing to provide adequate toilet facilities. Over the course of a year, despite repeat visits and being issued with an improvement notice, Bristol Council investigated the company and discovered that only on one occasion was the toilets adequately clean. On numerous visits, the toilets had excrement on them, were generally filthy with no toilet paper or soap.

At the hearing, the magistrate noted that it would have been a lot easier and cost-efficient for the man in question to have implemented adequate and hygienic facilities in the first place.

What are the health risks?

Toilets come high on the list for obvious reasons. Sanitation is essential for the health and safety of users. Commonly it is believed that toilet basins themselves are high-risk areas for spreading infections, when the highest risks come from the spread of germs from hands and toilet door handles.

In situations where there are no toilets provided and a worker is not able to go, this can lead to a serious range of health problems. Urinating often eliminates bacteria within the body, whereas holding it in can lead to more growing in the bladder, leading to urinary tract problems. Infections can also spread to the kidneys.

It’s not pleasant what lurks in restrooms. The common cold, flu viruses, E-Coli, streptococcus (a form of meningitis and strep-throat), staphylococcus (a form of virus associated with pneumonia and food poisonings) and hepatitis A.

What must be provided?

According to the Welfare at work Guidance for employers on welfare provisions employers/organises must provide:

  • Enough toilets and washbasins for those expected to use them
  • Where possible, separate facilities for men and women _ failing that, rooms with lockable doors
  • People should not have to queue for long periods to go to the toilet
  • Clean facilities _ to help achieve this walls and floors should preferably be tiled (or covered in suitable waterproof material) to make them easier to clean
  • A supply of toilet paper and, for female employees, a means of disposing of sanitary dressings
  • Facilities that are well lit and ventilated
  • Facilities with hot and cold running water
  • Enough soap or other washing agents
  • A basin large enough to wash hands and forearms if necessary
  • A means for drying hands, eg paper towels or a hot air dryer
  • Showers where necessary, eg for particularly dirty work

What can you do to make sure you are compliant?

Always make sure you use a reputable and trustworthy company for hiring toilets

Although the responsibility for toilets is down to the employer, a reputable company will make sure that the toilets or sanitary units come to you already compliant with the standards as set out by the HSE. They will have been cleaned thoroughly beforehand, usually rigorously steam-cleaned with the outflow water drained and replaced before they are delivered.

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need

When speaking to an advisor at the hiring company, don’t be afraid to ask for what you specifically need. Many hiring firms supply everything you need to get started with your loos, including hand towels and soap.

Get your toilet-to-user ratio right

The amount of toilets you need will depend on the approximate amount of users. If you’re unsure how many toilets you need, speak to the team and they’ll give you an estimate.

Need more advice?

For free, impartial advice on hiring toilets, legislation or general hiring enquiries, please call one of our specialists on: 0844 288 7265 or you can call us on our mobile-friendly number 0330 288 7251.