Women in Construction
Sanitary Facilities at the Construction Site
OSHA's Sanitation standard, 29 CFR 1926.51 requires employers to provide accessible sanitary facilities for ALL personnel and to ensure that these facilities are maintained in an appropriately, clean and sanitary condition.
Access to sanitary facilities can be challenging on some construction sites. Temporary facilities are usually unisex, and often not very well maintained or over used. As a result, women report that they avoid drinking water on the job, risking heat stress and other health problems because of the lack of appropriate facilities available to them.
Scientific literature indicates that holding urine in the bladder for more than one hour, after experiencing the urge to urinate, leads to a higher incidence of urinary tract infections. Thus, due to the lack of available sanitary facilities, female workers experience a higher incidence of bladder and kidney infections. Inadequate facilities can result not only in urinary tract infections, but may also result in other diseases from unavoidable contact with a contaminated toilet seat. If you find yourself in this predicament, inform your supervisor or employer. Some possible solutions include: requesting additional toilet facilities, sex designated facilities, and facilities with internal and external locking systems. Do not feel embarrassed by this issue. Many men complain about this problem as well. Your action will benefit both genders.
Best Practice: In addition to compliance with OSHA regulations, employers should provide separate bathrooms for male and female workers and also, a container of hand sanitizer and if the work is at night, maintain bathroom facilities in an open area that is well illuminated.
The Preamble: of the OSHA Field Sanitation Standard which was developed and published in the 1980's, contains a great deal of health risk assessment which could be helpful for women in construction. View OSHA's current construction sanitation standard, at OSHA 29 CFR §1926.51, Sanitation Standard, on the public OSHA site: Occupational Health and Environmental Controls.