Workplace hygiene: Don’t forget about the toilets

Wednesday March 23, 2022

The weather is getting warmer and many of us will be taking the opportunity to do some spring cleaning. This has traditionally focused on homes but, with the pandemic still fresh in our minds, workplace hygiene has taken on a new importance.  

Although COVID-19 has turned out to be a predominantly airborne virus, we can’t underestimate the dangers of unclean surfaces in the workplace. The Office for National Statistics tells us that colds and flu cost the average UK business 38.5 working days a year, and 80% of these common illnesses are spread by touch.  

Hygiene is important in all parts of the office, but there is one area that is often neglected, it may be unpleasant, but it’s time to talk about toilets.  

Staff have serious hygiene concerns 

Recent findings suggest that worrying numbers of employees are reluctant to use workplace facilities. A YouGov survey found that 47% of UK workers are worried about dirty toilets, while 45% are concerned by a lack of toilet paper. Other common complaints include poor ventilation and insufficient soap.  

This may sound trivial, but it could have serious implications. One survey from CIPHR in 2021 found that up to 85% of those who worked remotely during the pandemic are reluctant to return to the office. Meanwhile, a survey by Randstad in late 2021 found that nearly one in four workers are planning to resign in 2022. In this climate, a dirty toilet could easily be the difference between keeping and losing an employee.  

What does the law say? 

Regulation 20 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 makes it your responsibility to provide “suitable and sufficient sanitary conveniences”. As well as specifying the number of toilets required, the law also covers the condition of these facilities. Toilets must meet a number of criteria, including: 

  • Being kept in a clean and orderly condition 
  • Being well lit and properly ventilated 
  • Having hot and cold running water 
  • Having a basin that is large enough to wash the hands and forearms 
  • Being well stocked with soap and toilet paper 
  • Having either a hand dryer or paper towels  
  • Having a place for female employees to dispose of sanitary dressings 
  • Being accessible for disabled employees 

Separate facilities must also be provided for men and women, unless the toilet is in a separate room with a door that can be locked from the inside.  

What about the rest of the workplace? 

Aside from toilets, the HSE also provides general guidance for workplace hygiene. This includes some simple actions that you and your employees can take to encourage cleanliness: 

  • Keep floors and stairways clean 
  • Wipe down desks and other furniture 
  • Provide enough bins and empty these regularly 
  • Clear up spillages as quickly as possible 

If you employ an external cleaner, it’s important to give them everything they need to do their job. Make sure they have the right equipment and provide cleaning products if necessary. You could also consider an occasional deep clean on top of your regular cleaning services.  

We’re sure you’re keen to provide a pleasant environment for your staff. Even if your office is already clean, it never hurts to focus on hygiene. If you have a question about workplace cleanliness, or any other area of health and safety, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

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