Let's get Flushed.
Everyone has the right to a proper place to use the washroom at work.
Right now, employers are using a loophole to deny construction workers this basic right. Pandemic or not, porta-potties don’t cut it. Construction workers need a clean and safe place to flush waste and wash their hands.
B.C. construction workers deserve better.
If you are a B.C. construction worker, you’ve probably got some experience under your belt – literally – using a portable toilet, or porta-potty as they are commonly known.
But did you know that occupational health and safety regulations actually require flush toilets on construction sites? It’s true! Instead of providing construction workers with clean and sanitary flush toilet facilities, the industry has been relying on a loophole in the regulations that permits porta-potties in cases where the “nature of the workplace” does not allow for flush toilets, or providing flush toilets isn’t “practical.”
We’ve done the research(opens in a new tab), and we know that there are seldom any obstacles regarding the “nature of the workplace” that would prevent flush toilet facilities being provided on construction sites. Flush toilets are not only practical – at about $1 per day per worker, they’re affordable, too!
For more than a year, we’ve been calling on WorkSafeBC to start enforcing these existing health and safety regulations so that construction workers can have access to clean, sanitary and safe washroom facilities.
In response to our campaign, WorkSafeBC has revised the general conditions of the occupational health and safety guideline to clarify the minimum standards for maintaining washroom facilities in construction.
Rather than indicating how washrooms should be maintained, the revised guideline indicates how washroom facilities must be maintained. The regulation explicitly states:
- Washroom facilities must be serviced, cleaned and sanitized as frequently as necessary to maintain them in a clean and sanitary condition.
- Employers must ensure that washroom facilities provided through rental contracts are appropriately serviced to meet the requirements.
- Washroom facilities must also be adequately illuminated.
- If the washroom facilities are not under the employer’s direct control, the employer must still ensure that all facilities intended for use by workers are maintained to meet the requirements.
But our fight is not over. Our position is that plumbed toilets – trailered or connected to the water system – must be considered first, with portable toilets used only when impractical. It is not acceptable in 2022 for all construction employers in B.C. to simply carte blanche deny workers plumbed facilities.
We are demanding clarity around when and where plumbed facilities are to be provided because in the absence of clarity, the universal practice across the construction industry is for portable facilities.
We heard you. We advocated for you. We succeeded. But we will not stop fighting.
Let’s #GetFlushed and ensure the health, safety and dignity of B.C. construction workers today!
Hear what workers have to say:
“The general rule is that if you haven’t used the porta-potty by 7 a.m. on a Monday, then don’t bother using it.”
– 15-year construction worker
“The porta-potties on the construction sites I’ve worked on were cleaned once a week. Sometimes the waste gets higher than the toilet seat.”
“There are no fans, and no air gets in. So you can imagine what it’s like inside a porta-potty at the end of a hot summer day. That’s why some people would rather use a jar.”
“People make jokes about porta-potties, but we have to use them. Our health and working conditions shouldn’t be punchlines.”