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.
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 the table in 29 CFR 1910.141(c)(1)(i)), 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, OSHA published letters of interpretation that, together, describe how employers must ensure prompt access to toilet facilities (see references for letters of interpretation under Additional Resources below).
- Allow workers to leave their work locations to use a restroom when needed.
- Provide an adequate number of restrooms for the size of the workforce to prevent long lines.
- Avoid imposing unreasonable restrictions on restroom use.
- Ensure restrictions, such as locking doors or requiring workers to sign out a key, do not cause extended delays
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.
- 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.
- Guidance to Employers: Best Practices - A Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers. OSHA Publication 3795, (2015).
- 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).
- 1926.51(c)(4): Sanitation and Mobile Crews. OSHA Memorandum, (June 7, 2002).
- 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.
- Other related OSHA Letters of Interpretations.
OSHA's COVID-19 Safety and Health Topics page provides specific information about protecting workers from coronavirus during the ongoing outbreak.
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.