A construction company has recently been prosecuted for failing to provide adequate welfare facilities for its workers. In what the HSE inspector described as ‘Dickensian-like’ conditions, workers were unable to access basic welfare facilities such as toilets or running water.
In fact, during a recent inspection initiative by the HSE inadequate washing facilities were identified as a common health and safety breach on a number of construction sites.
So what welfare facilities should be provided on construction sites and how do we make sure they pass the suitability test?
Well, for the most part, you would expect common sense to prevail. Workers in construction should have access to welfare facilities just as workers in other sectors do, such as retail or office based staff.
After all, those in construction are not robots and have the same requirements for going to the toilet or taking a break as any other person going about their daily working life.
In fact, due to the nature of construction work, with ample dirt, dust and muck to deal with, the need for good hygiene and cleanliness during breaks is even more important.
Above common sense, the law also places requirements on the provision of welfare facilities on construction sites.
Suitable and sufficient sanitary conveniences shall be provided or made available at readily accessible places.
The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations not only require suitable and sufficient toilet facilities but also cover washing, drinking water, changing and rest facilities.
There is not a standard requirement, as all construction sites differ in their scope, size, and the number of people on site.
The layout of the site, the distance and spread of workers, as well as the number of workers all need to be taken into account when assessing your welfare facility needs on site.
Failing to provide adequate welfare facilities for the number of people on site, unhygienic welfare facilities or faulty welfare facilities (e.g. no running water hot and cold washing water) could all be highlighted as material breaches of the need to provide suitable and sufficient welfare facilities.
Make sure your welfare provision passes the suitability test, and check you are providing suitable and sufficient welfare facilities for your workforce.
Assess your project. How many people will be on site? Where will they be working? How are they going to access welfare facilities? How will welfare facilities be kept clean? How will welfare facilities be maintained?
Keep a check on your site health and safety management with our construction site inspection checklist and find out if your project ticks all the right boxes.