YES! The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation requires flush toilets in every workplace, except in cases where the “nature of the workplace” does not allow for flush toilets, or it isn’t “practical” to provide them. Industry has been using this exception as a loophole, to the detriment of thousands of B.C. construction workers.

NO! Occupational health and safety guidelines have not been updated in more than 16 years, and do not take into account the increased availability and economy of flush toilets, such as those commonly used at public events. Flush toilets cost approximately $1 per day per worker(opens in a new tab).

Flush toilet units provide hand-washing facilities with hot and cold running water, and they are properly and consistently cleaned under a servicing agreement. This is important all the time but especially during a pandemic when regular handwashing is even more important. Portable flush toilets are also illuminated so that even in the dark, workers can see what they’re doing. Remember, construction workers start their shifts early, which means it’s often dark for them during the fall and winter months.

Servicing porta-potties involves pumping out the holding tank with a hose inserted into the tank from inside the washroom. Once the tank is empty, the hose is removed and any residual waste from the hose may drip inside the facility. That waste is then removed when the unit is sprayed down with a cleaner, and then sprayed again with water. The facility is left saturated until the water evaporates, which could take several hours in the winter months, forcing workers to use a wet facility.

Health Canada, the BC Centre for Disease Control and WorkSafeBC all recommend that washroom facilities are cleaned periodically throughout the workday and again at the end of the workday. This does not happen where porta-potties are concerned.

Absolutely not. Hand sanitizer is an option, but running water is the most effective for disease prevention. The BC Centre for Disease Control notes that washing with soap and hot water for an appropriate length of time is the most effective for destroying viruses.

There are recognized biological hazards associated with poor hygiene practices, including COVID-19, Hepatitis A and other viruses. Porta-potties are unheated, diminishing the efficacy of most disinfectants, which are designed for use at room temperature. 

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation contains legal requirements that must be met by all workplaces under the inspectional jurisdiction of WorkSafeBC, which is responsible for compliance and enforcement. The purpose of the regulation is to promote occupational health and safety and to protect workers and other persons present at workplaces from work-related risks to their health, safety, and well-being.

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