The Secret Life of the Office Toilet, What is Your Washroom Used For?

September 19, 2018
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All employers are required suitable welfare facilities for their workers, this includes:

  • suitable and sufficient sanitary conveniences;
  • suitable and sufficient washing facilities;
  • an adequate supply of wholesome drinking water;
  • suitable and sufficient rest facilities; and
  • where meals are regularly eaten in the workplace, suitable and sufficient facilities for persons at work to eat meals

Regulations go on to say that, except where individual toilets are in a separate room which can be secured from the inside, separate rooms should be provided with toilets for men and women and washing facilities should be provided in the immediate vicinity of every sanitary convenience. Washing facilities should include a supply of clean hot and cold, or warm, water, soap or other washing materials, towels or other suitable means of drying and the rooms containing them should be sufficiently ventilated and lit.

Perhaps most importantly these facilities should be kept in a clean and orderly condition.

The washroom and healthcare waste services company Initial recently announced the results of a survey of 2000 office workers. This found that 39% of workers said that even if they didn’t actually need to go to the toilet, the office loo was the best place to “get some peace and quiet”, “so they could get away from their desk and dodge colleagues”, rather than popping outside in the open air.

Workers using toilets as break zones poses an obvious hygiene issue, it is important that suitable arrangements in place to ensure that rooms containing toilets or washing facilities are kept clean. Exactly how frequently and thoroughly these facilities should be cleaned will depend on individual circumstances however it is important that there is clear responsibility for cleaning. The HSE advise that internal walls and floors of these facilities should normally have a surface which permits wet cleaning, for example ceramic tiling or a washable surface. Also it should not be possible for air from a room containing a toilet to enter a room where food is processed, prepared or eaten.

Poor toilet hygiene can be bad for business, not just because this can make it easier for germs to spread meaning workers spend more till sick and underperforming. The Initial survey found that 41% of workers said facilities “were often ‘a mess’ and that hygiene standards should be improved” and 19% said “they believed their firm had lost clients because of the disgusting state of their office loos”.

Please speak to your normal PIB risk Management contact if you have any questions about workplace hygiene.

Further information about the findings of the survey can be found at: