Battle won over onsite sanitary disposal facilities

Campaigners have won a fight to ensure the proper provision of sanitary towel and tampon disposal facilities on construction sites.

New guidance, Construction – Welfare Standards, published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) this week, is aimed at clarifying the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations, which set out the health, safety and welfare laws for sites.

The HSE explained that there had been “significant debate in industry” around the interpretation of the laws, especially Schedule 2 of the regulations, which lays out the minimum requirements.

“This guidance sets out the approach inspectors and visiting officers should take when inspecting issues related to welfare on construction sites,” the HSE said.

It added that it “should also help influence and support enforcement decisions where standards fall below the benchmark”.

Along with the provision of toilet paper with a dispenser, a toilet-cleaning brush and a hook, the HSE said toilets used by women must have a “suitable means for the disposal of sanitary dressings”.

Disposal facilities for tampons and pads also need to be placed in a way that ensures there is “sufficient space” between the seat and the disposal unit, to prevent cross-contact.

Earlier this year, a petition called on the government to add sanitary waste disposal facilities to the legal definition of sanitary conveniences.

The petitioners said that the lack of adequate facilities entrenched inequality on construction sites, as women would often be forced to leave to find a disposal facility.

They argued that changing the regulations would persuade more women to continue in construction and engineering.

The guidance also provides clarification about washing facilities, rest facilities for pregnant or nursing women, drinking-water supply and changing rooms, lockers, ventilation and hygiene.

Women make up 16.5 per cent of the engineering sector and 13 per cent of construction.

Earlier this year, Atkins assistant engineering geologist Charity Rose told CN’s sister title, Ground Engineering, that inconsistent welfare facilities may cause stress to people, especially women, as they often do not know which facilities will be provided before reaching the site.

She said: “Welfare facilities are not something that anyone should be worried about; updating the regulations and official guidance could encourage more women to stay working in construction and engineering.”

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