Sub-standard washrooms affecting staff morale

iStock_000087505129_DoubleA new survey has concluded that one in five small to medium sized businesses in Britain are not providing enough toilets for workers, resulting in wasted working hours as well as negative impacts on staff morale and customer perceptions.

The research was conducted by Initial Washroom Hygiene, a company which provides washroom sanitation services, and was based on a survey of some 2000 employees. It found that:

  • Over one fifth of small businesses are not meeting legal requirements for the number of toilets in their office
  • The lack of adequate facilities causes queues; more than half of those surveyed reporting they regularly had to wait to use the washroom facilities in their office, wasting an average of almost seven minutes each week (equating to over five hours per year) doing so
  • Although health and safety laws require employers to keep their washrooms in a clean and orderly condition, 19% of employees said that this was not the case in their workplace
  • Some 32% of office workers said their business has been negatively affected by the standard of their washrooms, with staff morale and customer perceptions mentioned in responses.

According to the Approved Code of Practice for the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, the number of toilets provided by small businesses for employees must increase in line with the number of employees.

Any business with more than five employees, for example, must have at least two toilets available, increasing to a minimum of five for businesses with between 76 and 100 employees.

Commenting on the issue, Dr Peter Barratt of Initial Washroom Hygiene, said: “It’s essential for employers to provide their workers with sufficient numbers of toilet facilities, and to ensure that these are clean and well-presented.”

Toilet and Washing Facilities

Adequate sanitary facilities must be readily available to all building occupants. The location of the facilities should be within reasonable distance from the workplace. Where public access is also needed, the facilities must be increased.

Key considerations for the facilities manager include the following.

  • Enough toilets and washbasins should be supplied for those expected to use them.
  • Facilities should have hot and cold running water and enough soap or other washing agents.
  • Specific facilities must be provided separately for disabled people.
  • Showers and/or baths must be provided where work functions are particularly strenuous or dirty or where contamination can occur.
  • Special drench facilities must be installed close to all hazardous workstations, e.g. acid processes.
  • Permanent water and drain systems should be connected to all sanitary facilities, unless the facility is of a temporary nature.
  • Where possible, separate facilities for men and women, and failing that, rooms with lockable doors, must be provided.
  • Facilities must be clean, and walls and floors should preferably be tiled or covered in waterproof material for easier cleaning.
  • A supply of toilet paper is essential and, for female employees, a means of disposing of sanitary dressings.
  • Facilities should be:
    • Well lit
    • Clean
    • Ventilated


A suitable number of toilets should be provided for the use of those expected to use them. People should not have to queue for long periods to go to the toilet.

In most workplaces toilets should be provided within the premises themselves. So far as is reasonably practicable, facilities need to include flushing toilets and running water. Portable cabins converted into toilet facilities are available from hire companies for use at temporary worksites. Chemical toilets and water containers should only ever be used as a short-term measure and use of public toilets and washing facilities should be a last resort and not used just because they are the cheaper option.

Toilets are now mainly of the close-coupled type where the flushing cistern is directly above and behind the closet. Furthermore, most modern toilet units incorporate a two-stage flushing effect (reducing the amount of water consumed) and reduced capacity with the same flush effect.

As human perception of hygiene and concern over disease increases, maintenance hygiene is more critical than ever.

No room containing a sanitary convenience should communicate directly with a room where food is processed, prepared or eaten.

Washing Facilities

Washing facilities, including showers if required by the nature of the work, must be provided at readily-accessible places.

Wash basins must be large enough to wash hands and forearms if necessary. Hot (or warm) and cold running water as well as soap and clean towels or other means of drying, e.g. hot-air dryers, must all be provided.

Showers must be provided if dirty work is being carried out. Men and women should have separate toilet and shower facilities unless each facility is in a separate room with a lockable door, and is for use by only one person at a time.

Washing facilities are only considered suitable if:

  • They are provided in the immediate vicinity of every sanitary convenience, whether or not provided elsewhere
  • They are provided in the vicinity of changing rooms required under the welfare regulations, whether or not they are also provided elsewhere
  • They include a supply of clean hot and cold, or warm, water (which should be running so far as is practicable)
  • They include soap or other suitable means of cleaning
  • They include towels or other suitable means of drying
  • The rooms containing them are sufficiently ventilated and lit
  • They and the rooms containing them are kept in a clean and orderly condition
  • There are separate facilities for men and women, except where and so far as they are provided in a room the door of which is capable of being secured from inside and the facilities in each such room are intended to be used by only one person at a time.

Wash basins should be fitted with suitable taps or mixers. In many workplace toilets, water saving taps are used which are designed to reduce the amount of water wasted. Some taps have flow regulators or aerators to ensure that water does not reach full flow. Others close off after a short period of time. Some are activated by a movement sensor which means that hand contact does not actually have to be made with the tap, thus reducing capacity for infections to be passed on.

An additional toilet and one additional washing station should be provided for every 25 people above 100. For toilets used only by men, an additional water closet for every 50 men above 100 is sufficient, but only if at least an equal number of additional urinals are provided.

Toilets should contain toilet paper in a holder or dispenser and a coat hook. Suitable sanitary bins should be provided in female toilets.

Disabled Users

Suitable sanitary facilities should be available for all people who use the building including disabled people. For disabled people, suitable toilet accommodation may take the form of a specially designed cubicle in separate-sex toilet washrooms or a self-contained unisex toilet. For wheelchair users, the separate unisex toilet is the preferred option since a partner or carer


Rooms containing sanitary conveniences or washing facilities should be kept clean. This not only includes the physical parts, e.g. walls and floors, but also emptying and cleaning of sanitary disposal units and nappy bins, etc. Toilets should be kept appropriately sanitised and have a pleasant, hygienic and fresh smell.

Soap dispensers and hand drying facilities should be provided and replenished on a regular basis. Liquid soap dispensers which create no mess and which are robust in design are to be preferred, as well as disposable towels rather than fabric towels.

A cleaning schedule should be kept which should list daily cleaning tasks; this should include all toilet areas. The facilities manager must ensure that cleaning staff or contractors make at least one daily visit to keep surfaces clean. A common practice is to display a chart in toilet areas to record each cleaning event. Monthly deep cleans need to be carried out to keep sanitary ware clear of verdigris (green rust on copper or brass) and lime scale, and high-level surfaces clean. Spillages also need to be cleaned promptly.

The responsibility for cleaning should be clear, particularly where facilities are shared by more than one workplace.

Disclaimer: The information provided through Legislation Watch is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Legislation Watch is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.

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