OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.

February 23, 2005

Ms. Mary Nall
[by e-mail]

Re: Providing employees with toilet facilities on a construction jobsite.

Dear Ms. Nall:

This is in response to your e-mail submitted January 13, 2005, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your questions relate to the provision and availability of toilet facilities on construction jobsites.

We have paraphrased your questions as follows:

Question: Scenario: Construction workers are working on the 10th floor of a high-rise. Because neither elevators nor worker-lifts are in place, the workers' only means of access to the ground floor is by stairways. Toilet facilities are located only on the ground floor. In this circumstance, would OSHA's sanitation standard require toilets to be placed higher in the building or would placing them only on the ground floor be considered sufficient?

Title 29 CFR. 1926.51(c)(1) states:

(c) Toilets at construction jobsites. (1) Toilets shall be provided for employees according to the following table:

Table D-1
Number of employees Minimum number of facilities
20 or less . . . . 1
20 or more . . . . 1 toilet seat and 1 urinal per 40 workers.
200 or more . . . . 1 toilet seat and 1 urinal per 50 workers.

The purpose of this standard is to ensure that employees will not suffer the adverse health effects that can result if toilets are not available when employees need them. The standard in §1926.51(c)(1) requires that toilets be "provided." As we stated in a June 7, 2002 letter to Mr. Nicholas Mertz on a related issue:


[T]he most basic meaning of 'provide' is 'make available.' See Webster's II New College Dictionary ('Webster'), 1995, defining 'provide' as 'to furnish; to make ready; to make available.' Toilets that take too long to get to are not 'available.' Similarly, one purpose of the requirement in Table D-1 that adequate numbers of toilets be provided for the size of the workforce is timely access -- to assure that employees will not have to wait in long lines to use those facilities. The most basic meaning of 'readily' as defined by Webster is 'promptly; willingly; easily;' and it furthermore defines 'ready' as 'prepared or available for service or action.'

Therefore, whether the employer in the scenario you describe meets §1926.51(c)(1) depends upon whether it has provided prompt access to toilets for its employees, that is, toilets that are sufficiently close so that employees can use them when they need to do so. We cannot make that assessment based on the information you provided since we do not know how long it would take in the scenario for the employees to get to the toilets from their work stations. However, note that in the letter to Mr. Mertz interpreting §1926.51(c)(4), OSHA stated that:

[I]n general, toilets would be considered 'nearby' if it would take less than 10 minutes to get to them.

Similar considerations are applicable to §1926.51(c)(1), since the purpose of the provisions is the same -- making sure that employees have prompt access to toilets. Therefore, in general, the starting point for assessing whether the requirements of §1926.51(c)(1) have been met is the same as for §1926.51(c)(4) -- that is, whether it takes employees less than 10 minutes to get to a toilet.

If you need additional information, please contact us by fax at: U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA, Directorate of Construction, Office of Construction Standards and Guidance, fax # 202-693-1689. You can also contact us by mail at the above office, Room N3468, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210, although there will be a delay in our receiving correspondence by mail.


Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction