Men and women share toilets on nearly 1 in 5 sites

29 January 2018 | By James Kenny

Image: Baloncici/

Men and women are forced to share toilets and washing facilities on nearly one in five construction sites.

A survey of more than 3,500 Unite members working in the construction sector has found that many are forced to endure entirely inadequate toilets and washing facilities, with 17% of men and women sharing toilets as there were no separate facilities for women workers.

In total 18% of respondents’ workplaces did not have adequate toilet facilities – and 10% of sites did not supply toilet paper.

Despite construction invariably involving dirty and physical work, more than half of respondents (51%) said their workplace did not have any showers. And when showers were provided, in 16% of cases there were no separate showers for women.

Where showers and toilets were provided there remain issues about their cleanliness: 3% of respondents said that showers and toilets were never cleaned, while 8% said they were only cleaned weekly.

The supply of water on sites was also a concern with 17% saying they did not have drinking water, 14% had no cold water and 22% of sites did not provide hot water.

Some respondents also expressed concern about the cleanliness of canteen/mess facilities. In 4% of cases they were never cleaned, while 6% said these facilities were only cleaned weekly.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Providing toilets and washing facilities is not a luxury, they are a basic human right.

“This survey must act as a wake-up call to the construction industry. In the 21st century there is no excuse for any workplace not to provide clean and decent welfare facilities.

“Companies that fail to provide decent welfare facilities can and should be prosecuted and this is an area where Unite is working with the Health and Safety Executive to ensure standards are improved.

“Where Unite is organised on a site we will always ensure that decent welfare facilities are provided and will ensure our members take the necessary measures to ensure they are in place.”


A change from the old days of the trench with a pole and a bag of lime or the pile segment with a toilet seat attachment on top plus the bag of lime.

Might be worth reading 'The Specialist' a very serious dissertation by a privy builder (made it to the big screen as a 'B' film). Included one of the earliest time and motion studies (for a local farmer).

When I started work on one of the sites that I worked on my Senior Surveyor was changed for one of the few (at that time) ladies in that profession (clever lady - had to wait until she was 21 to put her letters up). She was complaining on site about being paid less than her male colleagues (mostly over 20 years older). In order for her to visit the site our employer dictated we hire a Portaloo for her on each of the five sites she visited. £296 a year each, at that time her salary would have been around £1,000 a year. A bit more economic with more women in the industry now no doubt. Any one thought of equal cost (not just the salary), if the government takes this too far it could result in smaller firms operating on smaller sites choosing staff on a cost basis. As they say "be careful what you wish for".

David Roberts, 29 January 2018

I work for one of the large remaining construction companies, we put a lot of effort in to ensuring that welfare facilities are cleaned every day, fresh drinking water available on the site.
Ladies toilets are standard on all our sites.
After all that I will say I am so frustrated when I look at how the site operatives ABUSE the toilets you feel like shooting down the toilets and letting them use the hedge/go and find somewhere else to use.

Denis Lawler, 29 January 2018

No excuse for poor or dirty facilities (which is actually luxury for those of us that used to live in a cardboard box (ask an older colleague)). However, unisex toilets are now being considered in many new designs. There is no reason why one (adequate and clean) facility should not be considered on site. This obviously only applies to larger sites, single toilets will still be a problem.

PMcK, 1 February 2018

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