Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, as an employer, as far as is ‘reasonably practicable’, you’re required to provide your employees with certain welfare facilities, like toilets, changing rooms and drinking water, for example.
When we say ‘reasonably practicable’, we mean unless it’s demonstrably awkward due to things like time, trouble, cost and physical difficulty. When establishing if something is reasonably practicable, you should sensibly use your judgement in terms of how much you would truly have to go out of your way.
For example, if the difference between two options is a matter of a couple of hours or a couple of hundred pounds, it could be argued that the adjustments are reasonable to make.
So, let’s dive in and take a look at eight of your welfare responsibilities.
1. Toilet ratios
Employees or visitors shouldn’t have to queue for a long period of time to use the toilet. For mixed use or women only toilets, you should have:
It’s also important to remember that in toilets that’ll be used by females, you must provide a means to dispose of sanitary materials.
2. Seated areas
You should provide employees with a suitable, seated area to use during their breaks. Within the proximity should be a means for employees to heat food or drink, as well as washing facilities.
If you’re in the construction industry, if necessary, sinks should be large enough for employees to fit their forearm in. This is to ensure employees can thoroughly wash their arm to prevent diseases like dermatitis.
4. Temporary work sites
If you have employees working at a temporary work site, public toilets should be an absolute last resort as a means for washing facilities – saving a few pounds isn’t a justifiable reason. As far as is reasonably practicable, you must provide your own running water and flushing toilets – by hiring portable cabins and turning them into toilet facilities, for example.
5. Changing facilities
If the line of work employees are in requires them to change into and wear specialist clothing – like a uniform or personal protective equipment (otherwise known as PPE), for example – then you must provide them with suitable changing facilities. You must also ensure you have separate facilities for men and women.
Your changing facilities should: be easily accessible; provide a means to sit down; contain or be next to clothing storage and washing facilities; ensure privacy is provided; and enable employees to hang their clothing somewhere – something as simple as a hook or peg would do.
6. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
While we’re on the subject of changing and clothing, any PPE must be well looked after, and stored in a suitable location, like a dry, clean cupboard, for example. Think about things like: are reusable items kept in good condition? And do you have suitable replacements available?
It’s also important to regularly monitor and review your PPE – do you have someone who’s responsible for this? Are employees using PPE if they should be? If not, why not? Are there any changes in equipment that might result in changes to your PPE needing to be made? It might also be worth hanging signs in areas where PPE is required as a reminder for employees.
7. Facilities for pregnant employees
If you’ve any employees who are pregnant, as far as is reasonably practicable, you should provide them with rest facilities. The rest facilities should be in close proximity to your toilets, and provide the expectant mother with a place to lie down.
8. Wash facilities
If employees require wash facilities – like a shower – due to either the nature of their job or for health reasons, you should provide suitable facilities which: are readily accessible; are nearby changing rooms; supply hot and cold or warm water; provide soap and towels – or another means to dry themselves; and are adequately ventilated.
You should provide men and women with separate wash facilities, however, there are a couple of exceptions to the gender separation rule. Providing there is a secure lock from the inside of the facility, and that the facility is only intended to be used by one person at a time, it’s acceptable to provide a gender neutral wash facility.
If you provide wash facilities, don’t forget about your legionella responsibilities too. At worst, Legionnaire’s disease can take lives, so it’s crucial that you’re on top of your legal duties. You must understand how to do things like: identify and assess any risks; manage risks; prevent or control risks; and keep and maintain required records.
It’s important to note that it’s not enough to simply provide employees with welfare facilities. You must make sure that all your facilities are well maintained and clean at all times, and that there’s always a supply of things like soap and toilet paper.
And remember, these are just a few of your welfare responsibilities. For an in-depth look at what’s required of your business, get in touch.
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