SafeWork SA crackdown on unsanitary construction sites

Monday, 27 March, 2023

SafeWork SA crackdown on unsanitary construction sites

Businesses that conduct construction activities have been urged to provide clean and reasonably located loos for staff after a recent report found that a lack of access to hygienic toilets was a major gripe among workers. A review of SafeWork SA’s database found that the construction industry accounted for 42% of 765 complaints associated with toilets in the past decade. Construction also accounted for half of all toilet-related improvement notices.

SafeWork SA has published new guidance on toilet facilities at construction sites in collaboration with the South Australian branches of the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union; Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union; and the Master Builders and Civil Contractors Federation. Construction work activities include contractors such as tradies, communications and utilities. The campaign is in an education phase with compliance checks scheduled for the second half of 2023.

This followed a 2021 Electrical Trades Union report called ‘Nowhere to Go’ that found there were inadequate bathroom amenities for workers on many worksites around Australia. The report exposes unsanitary, unsafe, inaccessible and unsuitable amenities faced by many workers undertaking construction work activities. The report found that the issue disproportionately impacts women.

The report states that workers are forced to use bathrooms that are unhygienic, unclean or rarely cleaned; have no running water and soap; have no lock on the door, or are locked with no available key; and have no sanitary bins. The report also found that there were no separate female facilities, and that bathrooms were often a 20-minute round trip away from the worksite.

SafeWork SA Acting Executive Director Glenn Farrell said most complaints were associated with unhygienic portable toilets, adding that portable toilets must be maintained and serviced in a hygienic way to minimise the risk of infections and disease for workers and the public.

“A safe construction site starts with the fundamental basics of having a clean toilet, equipped with the necessary facilities, and we’re seeing an unacceptable number of improvement notices being issued in the residential construction sector. If the builder has a blatant disregard for suitable toilet facilities supplied to workers, there’s a good chance that other standards and safety performance onsite are compromised. The cleanliness of a site, including the toilet, is often a good indicator of safety and work standards,” Farrell said.

Image credit: CORLEY

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