According to some estimates, as many as 700,000 U.S. adults are transgender—meaning they identify as a gender that is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. Associated issues have been a hot topic lately—one even the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is addressing.
OSHA recently released a best practices publication on restroom access for transgender workers . Within it, they explain that restroom access is a health and safety matter. When an employer requires an employee to use a restroom that is not consistent with his or her gender identity, or restricts the employee to a specific or gender-neutral restroom, it may make the worker fear for his or her physical safety at work. This can result in restroom avoidance and potentially serious physical injury or illness.
OSHA suggests that employers implement written policies that permit all employees to use the facilities that correspond with their gender identity as well as provide single-occupancy unisex facilities or multiple-occupant, gender-neutral facilities with lockable single occupant stalls. Any employee can then choose what he or she feels to be the most appropriate and safest option for him- or herself.
OSHA Requires Accessible and Sanitary Restrooms for All Employees
Transgender issues aside, OSHA regulations require employers to provide all workers with sanitary and accessible restrooms. Access to the facilities must be prompt and a minimum number of such facilities must be available. This means employers must:
- Consider the size of the workforce to ensure they’ve provided an adequate number of restrooms to prevent long lines. On construction sites, this means at least one toilet for 20 or fewer workers and one toilet plus one urinal for every 40 workers.
- Allow employees to use the restroom however often and for however long as needed.
- Avoid procedures (such as signing out bathroom keys) that cause extended delays.
If a restroom is not available on the jobsite, there must be one less than 10 minutes away. For farmworkers, the restroom facilities must be no more than a quarter mile away.
Employers must maintain the sanitary condition of their restrooms as well. This means there must be:
- Hot and cold running water or lukewarm water available
- Hand soap or similar cleansing product provided
- Access to warm air blowers or individual hand towels
- Trash cans for disposal of feminine hygiene products and hand towels