8 Things You Probably Don't Know About Employers' Welfare Responsibilities

8 Things You Probably Don't Know About Employers' Welfare Responsibilities

Angela Southall

In simple terms, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 sets out some fundamental workplace requirements to ensure employees are provided with a suitably comfortable and hygienic work environment. This includes certain welfare facilities, like toilets, changing rooms and drinking water, for example.

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Below are 8 key requirements all employers should know about:

1. Toilet provision

Employees or visitors shouldn’t have to queue for a long period of time to use the toilet. For mixed use or women only toilets, you should have:

  • One toilet if you have between one and five employees;
  • Two toilets for between 6 and 25 employees;
  • Three toilets for between 26 and 50 employees;
  • Four toilets for between 51 and 75 employees; and
  • Five toilets for between 76 and 100 employees.

It’s also important to remember that in toilets that’ll be used by females, you must provide a means to dispose of sanitary materials. It goes without saying, your toilet facilities need to be well maintained and clean at all times, and that there’s always a supply of things like soap and toilet paper.

2. Washing facilities

Hand washing facilities, including showers if required by the nature of the work or for health reasons, need to be provided at readily accessible places. Hand washing facilities need to be provided in the immediate vicinity of every sanitary convenience and must include a supply of clean hot and cold, or warm, water, soap or other suitable means of cleaning,  towels or other suitable means of drying. They need to be kept clean.

3. Lighting 

Every workplace needs to have suitable and sufficient lighting. Lighting should be sufficient to enable people to work, use facilities without experiencing eye-strain, and safely move from place to place.

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4. Cleanliness

All workplaces and the furniture, furnishings and fittings therein need to be kept sufficiently clean. Waste materials should not be allowed to accumulate in a workplace except in suitable receptacles.

5. Floor and traffic routes

Floors, or surfaces of traffic routes, should not have any hole or slope or be uneven as to present a trip hazard.  They should be kept free from obstructions and from any article or substance which may cause a person to slip, trip or fall. Traffic routes should be organised in such a way that pedestrians and vehicles can circulate in a safe manner.

6. Facilities for rest breaks 

You should provide employees with an adequate number of tables and seats in a restroom to use during their breaks. There should be a means for employees to heat and eat food or drink in a clean, contamination free environment. A supply of clean drinking water is also required.

7 . Changing facilities

If the line of work employees are in requires them to change into and wear specialist clothing – like a uniform or personal protective equipment (otherwise known as PPE), for example – then you need to provide them with suitable changing facilities. You must also ensure you have separate facilities for men and women.

Your changing facilities should: be easily accessible; provide a means to sit down; contain or be next to clothing storage and washing facilities; ensure privacy is provided; and enable employees to hang their clothing somewhere – something as simple as a hook or peg would do.

8. Facilities for pregnant employees

If you’ve any employees who are pregnant, as far as is reasonably practicable, you should provide them with rest facilities. The rest facilities should provide the expectant mother with a place to lie down.

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As far as reasonably practicable?

As an employer, you need to meet all the above requirements as far as is ‘reasonably practicable’. When we say ‘reasonably practicable’, we mean unless it’s demonstrably awkward due to things like time, trouble, cost and physical difficulty. When establishing if something is reasonably practicable, you should sensibly use your judgement in terms of how much you would truly have to go out of your way.

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