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I think everyone agrees that there is an issue which, in certain cases, may be unacceptable. Where there is a possibility of causing genuine distress to the occupants, should the employers not look at a managed solution? If it is not economically practicable to employ a male and female cleaner, can we not engineer a solution - such as a PIR with an external indicator to let folk know if the toilet is occupied? I'm not sure of the cost implications but it will, of course, be a one-off solution with negligable maintenance costs.
As far as I am aware most women do not usually perform personal body functions in an office and most offices are not single sex designated areas! Separate toilet facilities are provided for men and women because most people prefer not to have a member of the opposite sex in there with them!
It is also a safeguarding issue, should a child old enough to use a toilet without adult supervision eg 8-16 yrs (girls often do not close the cubicle door and boys are exposed using urinals) really be expected to understand/have the confidence to shout out when threatened with the entrance of an opposite sex worker?
It is well documented that
"stress may still be caused when an attendant knocks on the opposite sex’s washroom’s door to determine if the washrooms are in use. A person using the facility at the time would not know if the attendant would, nevertheless, enter, not realizing it was still in use. The knock may not be heard due to distance from the door or the noise caused by running water, dryers etc (The court (Norwood v. Dale Maint. Sys., Inc., 590 F. Supp. 1410 (N.D. Ill. 1984) found that knocking by female impermissibly infringed upon male employees’ privacy rights".
There are many elderly people with hearing impairment who might not hear a knock, would find it undignified to respond from a cubicle/urinal, might mistake the knock as someone entering with a briefcase/shopping bag etc, would not know how to respond e.g what does one say, whose duty is it to respond when there is more than one person in there etc etc. Many women would find it frightening to suddenly find a man in a female facility when they came out of the cubicle?
Policies which rely on hearing, such as knocking/calling out are never failsafe for the many people who might feel exposed or threatened (and have a right to object) when cultural norms are transgressed, because the exposure/threatening situation is not prevented from occurring before the person's private space/privacy has already been compromised! Knocking and opening the door to look in is entirely unacceptable to many people and would put them off using the facility altogether especially if there is a history of sexual abuse.
I would be interested to hear of any training which is adequate and provides the same protection as a gender based policy would for the many people, especially women, who feel threatened and demeaned by this practice.
Depending on the size of your business, it is not normal to have a cleaner empty your sanitary bins, but a contracted company that services as often as is necessary; once a week or monthly or... Smaller business I accept that someone on the firm, a cleaner for example would empty the bin, but to where? Why could a man not do this? There is no bin liner in professional contracted providers and they only touch the outside of the bin, including when emptying them. A pedal bin could have 2 liners and when emptied, it is the bag you remove and not as such emptying the contents as it is removing the bag, tie a knot.
Men can clean ladies loos as all we need is a sign - 'man cleaning toilets, please use an alternative or wait ten minutes. He can knock before entering announcing 'housekeeping' when checking for the facility to be unoccupied. There may be a lock on the door that can assist the cleaner to lock out unwanted visitors whilst he or she cleans the male and female latrines.
Personally, if a man suddenly enters the office early morning when a woman is in there alone with him, I see it no different if he enters the ladies toilet in the same fashion as long as he knocks, alerts by voice, listens for responses, then opens the door if no response, uses eyes to conclude if occupied, departs if occupied.
Of course a larger office I would expect has more scope to provide male cleaners and female, but a small business may have only one. When with RBS I found that the economic crunch more than halved cleaning resources, so it may be true that some large scale employers may also struggle to provide one of each sex on every site, and my view is it is unnecessary with adequate training.
Male cleaners in female toilets and vice versa is indeed a big enough topic in itself. However, I cannot believe that anyone would employ a man to empty sanitary bins, which are obviously only needed in female toilets, without any consideration of how he can do the job in ways which are respectful of the women the service is being provided for! This must surely be depriving women of work (as are male cleaners in female toilets in motorway service stations) which was my idea of what equality is supposed to be about!
Male cleaners in the female toilets and vice versa is really outside of my area of expertise, so I'd rather not comment. Maybe this would be a good topic for a new thread? Good Luck with your campaign though, as a quick Google search shows what a big topic this is.
I have thought about this and agree with you that putting a sanitary bin outside a cubicle would be embarrassing and unacceptable for most women. However, a problem I recently came across (which has links to John Stanfield's question) was a man charging in to a female designated toilet enclosure, without any announcement policy to check that no one was already in there! This was in a hospital! I challenged him (as it happened there was a woman in there looking uncomfortable, it could have been a child). It transpired that he was a male employee who had come to empty the sanitary bin. I am rather surprised that this role is not given to female workers as it involves only working in female toilets! I was horrified that any man would consider entering a female toilet area, which might be occupied, without any respect for the privacy/decency of existing users who could be changing or washing etc in the sink area, and who might be very shocked and intimidated to suddenly find a man in a female enclosure. I wondered if you are aware of other male workers in this role and codes of practice etc that are in place?
Interestingly I have not seen anything that says specifically that the sanitary bin should be in the cubicle itself, either in legislation or in guidance from the HSE. However, putting the bin outside the cubicle would be embarrassing and unacceptable for most women, so I would avoid making this suggestion.
So far as bins in every cubicles are concerned, this is an extract from my Sanitary Bin Guide, available by searching on Google:
Is it a legal requirement to have a sanitary waste bin?
The applicable law is the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
paragraphs 20 and 21. The Regulations do not specifically mention bins for sanitary
waste, but do have an overriding condition that “sanitary conveniences” (ie washroom
facilities) should be “suitable and sufficient”.
The Health and Safety Executive, however, in their “Welfare at Work” publication issue
their interpretation of “suitable and sufficient” which includes: “for female employees, a
means of disposing of sanitary dressings”.
The result of this is that if there was a gents only loo, there would not need to be a sanitary bin.
The final comment really is that bins come in various sizes usually, so maybe the simplest option would be to ask your bin provider for a a more suitable size of bin. They do not need to be higher that the top of the loo seat.
Hope that helps.
Susan, you are a breath of fresh air.
At the company I work for there is a small office suite and the toilet facilities consist of 3 narrow cubicles which have been destined as Unisex.
The reason for this is that the staff are primarily female, but recently the management have added large sanitary waste bins to EACH cubicle, making it very difficult to sit unless you have the build of a model!
The layout is 2 cubicles with outside washbasin and 3 doors, and the other end of what was once a corridor is a single cubicle with washbasin and 2 doors.
I did suggest that the single w/c be kept as unisex, or changed to male and have no sanitary waste bin, whilst the other 2 are changed to Ladies, with the sanitary waste bin put into the 'wash area' (between cubicle and outside door), but have been told they MUST have sanitary bins in each and every toilet, my reply is always that no legislation says that.
Can you just confirm (or deny) that the sanitary bin can be outside of the cubicle? Then I will take this information and present it in writing to the management.
In response to John Stanfield, there is no legal entitlement for a man to be in a women's toilet and women have a right to object to male cleaners (and vice versa) without being accused of discrimination -because this situation is covered by privacy laws for obvious reasons.
To balance the needs of the business with those of the users and avoid anyone being compromised, there should be a failsafe policy in place for any cleaner expected to work in opposite sex areas where people might be in a state of undress or using sanitary facilities e.g put up signs to warn would be users, clean own sex loos first thus giving opposite sex users time to exit, or wait minimum of 5 minutes for existing users to exit, ask same sex user to check if anyone in there and close facility down for cleaning using clear signs.
Many cleaners are knocking, opening the door calling but this is not practical and does not work-it discriminates against people with hearing impairment (eg many elderly users who might be very distressed/shocked to find themselves in this situation), may frighten children and crucially does not give users time to object resulting in embarrassing privacy violations which could be perceived as harassment. .
Permanent warning signs, such as those seen in motorway service stations, are just a sneaky way of getting women to consent (implied rather than informed consent). This could be seen as putting the needs of the business before those of the service users because it is easier for the organisation i.e discrimination.
Essentially if a woman uses the female facility while there is a sign warning there is a male cleaner on duty (or vice versa for men), the right to object is effectively being forfeited because consent is assumed and cleaners are expected to carry on cleaning as if you were not there!
Many people appear to be putting up with this, perhaps because they do not know their rights, that they can complain without being accused of discrimination, or maybe because there is safety in numbers. However, it is very difficult to complain when you have been stuck on a motorway and are desperate for a toilet, the cleaners do not speak much English and it takes 20 minutes to call a manager to ensure they leave the enclosure! If more people complained, then this undignified practice which uses loopholes in the law would stop.
Common sence tells you that it is not safe practice for cleaners or users both of whom are at risk of accusations. It is also a potential child protection issue as opposite sex cleaners may be alone with a minor (under 16) in a state of undress-a situation forbidden in any other context eg nursery/health workers. It also potentially exploits the cleaners Equality is not about imposing opposite sex workers on people in situations where they have a basic human right to privacy! Cleaners should respect users privacy rights and leave if someone wants to use the facility urgently but ruthless employers wanting to get their moneys worth are encouraging them to clean while the facilities are in use.
If cleaning jobs continue to be advertised without using the privacy & decency exception clause when it is relevant eg toilets & changing rooms, then men are more likely to take the jobs because many women would not want to clean around men using urinals!
By co-incidence I have just signed up for waste and recycling news emails from the Health and Safety Executive and found just the thing for you at
Although principally about the dangers of people getting into containers, it also has some good stuff about general guidance for risk assessments for users of waste containers.
You or others may find it useful to sign up for the email bulletins, launched in January 2011 at
http://www.hse.gov.uk/waste/index.htm , and click on Subscribe on the left hand side.
I am a maintenance man at a old peoples home and am looking to store our general waste bins outside and away from the building. The clinical waste bins shall be kept inside of a seperate outbuilding. Is there any law or reason the general waste bins cannot be stored outside because of health and safety?
This is quite an interesting one. There are three parts to the answer, one is about legislation covering what it required in a workplace, one is about what is permitted to go down the loo, and the last is just about care for your users.
Although the site is a community centre, any volunteers are likely to be viewed as a sort of employee, and therefore the premises would be a workplace. In which case you would need to provide sanitary bins. See my previous comment above about the actual legislation.
If you do not provide bins, it is inevitable that items will be flushed, and this can result in blocked drains, either on your site or further along the system.
And finally - providing a sanitary bin should be seen as just a basic necessity, like providing soap and loo-paper for your users. It need not be expensive, there are options available for all budgets.
So far as cleaning in the ladies washroom is concerned I can't comment on legislation. In service stations on motorways I have seen permanent notices that warn users that male attendants may be present. You could also use the type of yellow mini A-board at the entrance to let people know you are cleaning at that time. Then anyone could avoid going in if they were concerned.
I work as a volunteer caretaker/cleaner at a community centre. At the moment out Ladies toilets do not provide any ladies waste facilities. One of our user groups, who has young girls in its number, has mentioned about this subject. What are the legal requirments that we have to follow and am I as a male, allowed to clean the ladies toilets even though I try to do it when nobody is using the centre.
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It looks as though the landlord is maintaining the wash rooms which are provided for joint use, so does the landlord have employees in the building? If so then the landlord should provide bins for them. Otherwise it will be what is in your lease's provision for washroom supplies.
There is an obligation for an employer to provide sanitary bins of some kind for employees.
The applicable law is the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 paragraphs 20 and 21. The Regulations do not specifically mention bins for sanitary waste, but do have an overriding condition that “sanitary conveniences” (ie washroom facilities) should be “suitable and sufficient”.
The Health and Safety Executive, however, in their “Welfare at Work” publication issue their interpretation of “suitable and sufficient” which includes: “for female employees, a means of disposing of sanitary dressings”. See http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg293.pdf
It may be, however that you need to make your own arrangements, and then share the cost with the other tenants.
We lease an office in a building that homes seperate businesses. There are four ladies working in our business/office and one in each of the other two businesses/offices. I have requested that our landlord supplies a sanitary waste disposal unit and has it emptied. He has refused saying that "we are not obliged to provide such services either under contract nor as your employer". Is this correct? Surely they do have a responsibility/duty to supply them as there are multiple businesses in the building?
I really hope someone can help me with this......
So glad I found this series of posts via a Google Alert. There is a huge amount of misinformation about sanitary waste and what can be done with it, and I can really help clear the confusion.
Sanitary waste from feminine hygiene waste bins is an expected part of commercial and domestic waste. Waste from the sanitary bins at a normal commercial premises is not regarded as clinical waste, and the Department of Health Technical Memorandum 07-01 says that up to 7kg of hygiene waste can go in any one commercial collection. Most business premises produce a fraction of this amount.
There is also the matter of the European Waste Codes. Domestic AND Commercial Waste is generally called Mixed Municipal Waste under code 20-01-03. I think everyone is aware that sanitary items from the home must go in the municipal waste, and not be flushed, and the same rules apply to commercial waste. It is only when sanitary waste is collected in bulk, by say PHS or Initial that the waste code changes to ensure that only permitted sites receive this for deep landfill. Your commercial waste collection company and the specialist sanitary waste collectors operate under the same Environment Agency permits.
A pedal bin, with a liner would fit the legal requirement, although I would agree with anyone, that its not the best route, another option is the purchased plastic hygiene bin, but it still needs to be emptied. But if you are a business that has only one or two women staff, do you want a service contract costing upwards of £120 per year.
It is arguing semantics. If you work in the environmental its called 'Hygiene Waste' (or offensive waste), in the medical industry its called 'Clinical Waste'.
It may well be offensive waste, but not in my opinion Hygienic Waste? This term is a misnomer as it is not very hygienic, but contaminated waste or human waste.
And yes should be treated by a specialist waste handler.
check this out this will tell you that sanitary waste if offensive waste and not clinical waste.
okay thanks for that, I will look into alternative solutions
You can't put sanitary waste into a commercial waste bin, it has to be treated as clinincal waste and handled and treated by a special waste specialist. if your cleaner is handling this type of wate it would be better to stop this asap. I think your wheelie bin will be for general waste which is totally different and both you and the commercial compnay could be prosecuted for mixing the two types.
I understand that you legally have to provide a sanitary bin for dressings we also have a commercial waste company who empties our wheelie bin which is kept locked, and who provides us with a certificate every year.
So can we empty the sanitary bin into a bin bag which is then tied up and put into our wheelie bin which is then emptied by our commercial waste carrier who takes away our rubbish, as currently our cleaner does this, and is this in compliance with legislation?
Yes, they should, even if only one bin.
By law, sanitary waste is a controlled waste under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and therefore this act places a legal "Duty of Care" on the employers to ensure that all sanitary waste produced on your premises is correctly managed right up to final disposal.
Also Regulation 21 of the Approved Code of Practice, in the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, advises that - "in the case of water closets used by women, suitable means should be provided for the disposal of sanitary dressings"
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