Does Welfare Facilities Pass The Suitability Test?

Does Welfare Facilities Pass The Suitability Test?


Construction workers need welfare facilities. These are things like toilets, sinks, washing facilities, places to get changed and places to eat. And to comply with the law, your welfare facilities need to be suitable.

Does Welfare Facilities Pass The Suitability Test – Essential Welfare Facilities for Construction Workers

Construction workers require proper welfare facilities, including toilets, sinks, washing, changing rooms, and eating areas. To comply with legal requirements, ensure these facilities are suitable and well-maintained.

Welfare facilities are legal in any workplace, including on construction sites. They are needed under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations. Welfare facilities are also included as a requirement in the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM), specifically for construction work.

In simple terms, both sets of regulations say the same thing: Workers must have welfare facilities available and suitable.

Use the welfare facilities checklist form to check the condition of your welfare facilities.

How do you know if your construction welfare facilities pass the suitability test?

There are three main factors to consider:

  • The type of facilities.
  • The number of facilities.
  • The condition of facilities.

Your construction site welfare facilities will be suitable if:

  • You are providing the correct type of facilities for the work.
  • You are providing enough facilities for the people who need to use them.
  • The facilities are in good condition (clean, tidy and working).

How many toilets do you need? How many rest areas? What washing facilities? What welfare facilities should be provided on construction sites and how do we ensure they pass the suitability test?

The right type of welfare facilities

How do you know the correct type of welfare facilities for your sites? Well, for the most part, you should expect to use common sense.

Welfare facilities needed in construction include:

  • Sanitary conveniences (toilets, sinks etc…)
  • Drinking water.
  • Facilities for rest.
  • Washing facilities.
  • Changing facilities.

Construction workers should have access to welfare facilities just as workers in other sectors do, such as retail or office-based staff. Construction workers have the exact requirements for going to the toilet or taking a break like any other person doing their daily work.

In fact, due to the nature of construction work, with plenty of dirt, dust and muck to deal with, the need for good hygiene and cleanliness during breaks is even more critical.

Above common sense, the law also places requirements on providing welfare facilities on construction sites.

  1. Suitable and sufficient sanitary conveniences must be provided or made available at readily accessible places.
  2. So far as is reasonably practicable, rooms containing sanitary conveniences must be adequately ventilated and lit.
  3. So far as is reasonably practicable, sanitary conveniences and the rooms containing them must be kept in a clean and orderly condition.
  4. Separate rooms containing sanitary conveniences must be provided for men and women, except where and so far as each convenience is in a separate room, the door of which is capable of being secured from the inside.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 SCHEDULE 2

Does Welfare Facilities Pass The Suitability Test? The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations require suitable and sufficient toilet facilities, including washing, drinking water, changing, and rest facilities.

If you don’t provide the proper welfare facilities, your construction work (and your workers) will suffer.

It’s hard to stay productive when you’re crossing your legs. It’s hard to work clean if you’re not clean yourself. And if you get a visit from the HSE, welfare facilities will be one of the things they check.

Failing to provide adequate welfare facilities would usually be handled with an improvement notice. These are listed on the HSE’s public register of enforcement notices. Several improvement notices are issued monthly against construction companies that have failed to provide suitable welfare facilities.

In severe or repeat cases, prosecutions can happen.

In one case, a construction company was fined £5k for failing to consider workers’ welfare needs. In what the HSE inspector described as ‘Dickensian-like’ conditions, workers could not access basic welfare facilities such as toilets or running water.

Due to the lack of toilets and running water on-site, workers had to use wet wipes and paper towels to clean themselves, and leave the site to find toilets elsewhere in the city.SHP Firm fined over ‘Dickensian’ conditions

The correct number of welfare facilities

Providing one toilet on a construction site is rarely enough – unless it’s a tiny site.

The minimum legal requirement for welfare facilities on construction sites is ‘suitable and sufficient’. But ‘suitable and sufficient’ isn’t a number. So, how many welfare facilities do you need in construction to be ‘suitable and sufficient’?

There are no specific numbers or standard requirements because all construction sites differ in scope, size, and the number of people on site.

What is suitable and sufficient for ten workers wouldn’t be for 50 workers or 100.

It’s not just about the number of workers you have but also where they are. Suppose your workers are spread out across a large project, and welfare facilities are only available at the far end of the site. In that case, those welfare facilities might not be ‘readily accessible’ for some of your workers.

  1. Suitable and sufficient sanitary conveniences must be provided or made available at readily accessible places.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 SCHEDULE 2

When assessing your welfare facility’s needs on-site, the site layout, the distance and spread of workers, and the number of workers all need to be considered.

  • The more workers you have, the more facilities you will need.
  • The larger the site, the more facilities you will need.
  • The further apart workers are, the more facilities you will need.

The proper condition of welfare facilities

Providing welfare facilities is part of the suitability test, and providing sufficient numbers of them is another. But they also need to be in good condition.

Broken or unusable facilities don’t count!

If toilets don’t flush or sinks don’t have running water, they are not in the proper condition to be suitable.

  1. (3) Washing facilities must include—
  1. a supply of clean hot and cold, or warm, water (which must be running water so far as is reasonably practicable);
  2. soap or other suitable means of cleaning; and
  3. towels or other suitable means of drying.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 SCHEDULE 2

Construction projects can take months or even years to finish. Welfare facilities are needed from the first day until the final day. During that time, they might see a fair bit of use, so even if your welfare facilities start suitable, they might not remain suitable due to the:

  • Faults.
  • Breakages.
  • Poor maintenance.
  • Lack of cleaning.

Let’s imagine you need three toilets for your project. But by month 6, the lights had broken in one, and the flush had stopped working in another. You’re down to one toilet. Now, you only have one working toilet, and that’s not enough for your project.

Monitoring the condition of your welfare facilities and keeping them in good working order throughout the project is essential.

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 or hot and cold washing water) could all be highlighted as breaches of the need to provide suitable and sufficient welfare facilities.

Welfare facilities should always be considered at the planning stage before any work starts. Ensure your welfare provision passes the suitability test and that you provide suitable and sufficient welfare facilities for your workforce.

Construction site welfare facilities must be:

  • Readily accessible for workers
  • Suitable for the type of work
  • Sufficient for the number of workers
  • Clean and tidy
  • Ventilated and lit

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?

This article was written by Mathew Oldham (HSQE Consultancy Ltd). Mathew has over 20 years of experience in health and safety and an MSc (Hons) in Construction Management. Mathew is NEBOSH Health and Safety, Construction, Fire, Environment and Diploma qualified and CertIOSH.

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