Restrooms and Sanitation Requirements
OSHA requires employers to provide all workers with sanitary and immediately-available toilet facilities (restrooms). 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.
Considerations for Transgender Workers
OSHA published the Best Practices publication, A Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers*, to provide specific guidance to employers regarding restroom access for transgender workers.
How do employers ensure restrooms are accessible?
Employers must provide at least the minimum number of toilet facilities, in toilet rooms separate for each sex (see table J-1 in 29 CFR 1910.141), 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.
In response to questions about reasonable access to toilet facilities over the last nearly 20 years, OSHA published letters of interpretation that, together, describe how employers ensure prompt access to toilet facilities (see references for letters of interpretation). Employers must:
- Provide an adequate number of restrooms for the size of the workforce to prevent long lines
- Do not impose unreasonable restrictions on restroom use
- Ensure restrictions, such as locking doors or requiring workers to sign out a key, do not cause extended delays
- Allow workers to leave their work locations to use a restroom when needed
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. Toilets for farmworkers must be located no more than a quarter mile from the location where workers are working on similar findings. Also, when work stations 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 assure the wait is not unreasonably long.
- Guidance to Employers: Best Practices - A Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers*. OSHA Publication 3795, (2015).
- Portable Toilet and Sanitation Best Practices for Women in Construction*. OSHA and the National Association of Women in Construction Alliance, (2015). For more information about the NAWIC alliance, please visit the alliance page.
- 29 CFR 1910.141(c)(1)(i), Toilet Facilities. OSHA Letter of Interpretation, (April 6, 1998). Clarification about this memorandum was provided in OSHA’s letter dated April 23, 2003. Additional clarification on restricting worker’s access to restrooms is provided in OSHA’s letter dated February 2, 2006.
- 1926.51(c)(4): Sanitation and Mobile Crews. OSHA Memorandum, (June 7, 2002).
- Requirements for Washing Facilities in Construction Industry under 29 CFR 1926.51(f)(1) and in Agriculture Industry under 29 CFR 1928.110. OSHA Memorandum, (July 20, 2005).
- 29 CFR 1910.141(d)(2)(iv). OSHA Letter of Interpretation, (January 29, 2008).
Letters of Interpretation
4/6/1998: This standard [29 CFR 1910.141] requires employers to make toilet facilities available so that employees can use them when they need to do so.
4/23/2003: The need to use toilet facilities varies from person to person and even with respect to the same person.
4/6/1998: Adequate numbers of toilets be provided [by the employer] for the size of the workforce is to assure that employees will not have to wait in long lines to use those facilities.
4/23/2003: In such situations employers need flexibility in developing procedures that will allow all of their workers access to toilet facilities as needed. A specific schedule for breaks might not allow the flexibility needed to address all types of work situations.
4/6/1998: The employer may not impose unreasonable restrictions on employee use of the facilities.
2/2/2006: If an employer puts any restrictions on employee access to toilet facilities, such as locking the doors and requiring the employees to ask and sign out a key, the restriction must be reasonable, and may not cause extended delays.
6/7/2002: Mobile crews must have prompt access to nearby toilet facilities. For example, in general, toilets would be considered “nearby” if it would take less than 10 minutes to get to them.
Employers must maintain restrooms in a sanitary condition. Restrooms must provide hot and cold running water or lukewarm water, hand soap or similar cleansing agent and warm air blowers or individual hand towels (e.g., paper or cloth). Waterless hand cleaner and towels/rags are not adequate substitutes for soap and water.
For more information on regulatory requirements for toilet facilities at construction sites and also best practices for improving sanitary conditions at these sites for both men and women see the National Association of Women in Construction Alliance product, Portable Toilet and Sanitation Best Practices for Women in Construction*.
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