March 18, 2016 by Corinne Lynds
Potential danger lurks around every corner on the jobsite. Whether it is working at height, in a confined space, or even the seemingly simple chore of navigating heavy equipment on foot. It is for this reason that contractors spend millions every year on safety gear, consultants and training.
Well, according to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, they have one more, very stinky, hazard to consider: portable toilets and clean-up facilities.
Known by all kinds of ‘cheeky’ names: Port-o-Potties, Johnny-on-the-Spot, Doodie Calls, Plop Jon; these portable toilets are a major cause of the spread of disease to construction workers and their families.
Although rarely pleasant, most onsite toilet and cleanup facilities are perfectly safe. It is the ones that are not appropriate for the site, poorly maintained, or overused that cause problems. Construction workers are at risk of contracting a variety of nasty diseases, including: Legionella, Moulds and Fungi, E.Coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Hepatitis A and Novovirus.
The ministry recently released a video about how to protect workers from the hazards of poor hygiene and the spread of infectious disease on construction sites. “We want to raise awareness amongst suppliers, constructors, employers, supervisors and workers about the hazards of poor hygiene,” said Kim MacLaughlin, occupational health and safety inspector, with the Ministry of Labour.
Keeping workers safe on the job is priority one, but contractors need to be careful not to overlook the importance of appropriate toilet and cleanup facilities. Inspectors, such as MacLaughlin, are looking for compliance with sections 29 and 30 of the construction regulation in Ontario. This includes providing adequate toilet facilities relevant to the number of workers, arranging for facilities to be in place before work begins, and making sure they are located at the appropriate distance from where the work takes place.
Although it is the Ontario Ministry of Labour heading up this awareness campaign, it is safe to assume that similar dangers lurk in portable toilets across the country.
Really, the core problem isn’t so much the toilets themselves, but the lack of cleanup facilities. Having a place to “go” is a clear priority. Having a place to wash your hands after, meh not so much.
It’s the same message schools are delivering to our children during cold and flu season: hand washing makes the single biggest difference on the jobsite to prevent contracting disease. “Where workers are handling corrosive, poisonous or other substances that may endanger their health, under section 30, it is required that they have running water, soap and towels to cleanup,” according to the ministry.
At the end of the day, don’t skimp on the number of portable toilets you rent, or the hand washing stations you set up. Your people, and their health are worth investing in.