Not all work environments are created equal. While some people work in the comfort of an air-conditioned office and have access to clean bathrooms, others are on job sites where the nearest lavatory is dozens of feet below them, or an inconvenient distance away.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide workers with an adequate number of bathrooms for the size of the workforce. According to OSHA standards, “Employers with 20 or more employees must provide one toilet and one urinal per 40 workers. If an employer has 200 or more employees, one toilet and one urinal are required for every 50 employees.”
However, for some sectors, the problem isn’t about the number of available bathrooms but accessibility and how quickly workers can get to them. Working in industries such as construction, alternative energy, mining on solar farms, and on wind turbines often means running toilets aren’t always within reach.
For most construction sites, portable restrooms are placed strategically away from driveways, walkways, or main roads. They’re typically kept away from high-traffic areas to keep them safe from oncoming trucks carrying materials. In addition, porta-potties also have to be placed on a level surface, so they stay stable. And because the portable restrooms are brought in by a truck, you need to find a spot that is accessible by the vehicle carrying them in and out.
Because of the many requirements of porta-potty placement, they often end up as far as 15 feet away from the main area where the construction takes place and where all the workers are. While the number of available restrooms is not an issue, reaching them can take a while; depending on where you work on the construction site.
Imagine how long it takes a worker who works on one of the higher floors or stands on the scaffolding has to travel to reach a porta potty. Each time a worker needs to pee or poop, they need to climb down and walk over to where all the portable restrooms are. Now, multiply their minutes by the number of workers on a job site. Those lost hours of productivity add up!
Unfortunately, some people decide they’re not going to make this journey and just hold it in – leading to UTIs and other health challenges. Often, workers get frustrated and simply openly defecate, by peeing or pooping in a bucket or a bottle. Sometimes it is behind a dumpster or in any corner of an unfinished floor. This causes a mess that someone has to clean up eventually, leading to even more unproductive hours!
The Health Hazards of Open Defecation and Exposure to Human Waste
The stench of urine and feces alone is enough to drive most people away. However, because of the pressure on workers to get the job done, they may put up with it and continue to work, not to realize they’re putting their health at risk. Open defecation isn’t just an unsanitary and unsightly practice, but exposure to the human waste left behind can lead to some severe health problems.
While the odor of human waste alone can make you feel nauseous, it’s the potential transmission of viral and bacterial infections we have to worry about most. According to UNICEF, one gram of feces contains 10 million viruses, 1 million bacteria, and 1,000 parasite cysts.
Human excreta is a vector for bacterial diseases such as E-coli, salmonella, typhoid, cholera, and dysentery otherwise known as infectious diarrhea. Fecally-transmitted viral infections include rotavirus and hepatitis A. You will not feel the impact of coming into contact with the fecal matter until symptoms of the disease hit you.
Salmonella infection symptoms can develop within eight to 72 hours after ingesting contaminated water or food. You may develop abdominal cramps, fever, or diarrhea. We know that people suffering from diarrhea have very loose, watery stools. If they can’t control their bowel movements while at work and the bathrooms are too far away, they may relieve themselves somewhere else on the job site. Even if they try to clean it up, trace amounts will remain and could potentially make a coworker sick. And the cycle continues.
Fecal-oral transmission becomes a reality at job sites when workers also eat in the same area where someone has practiced open defecation. If a coworker is peeing or pooping away from designated bathrooms and doesn’t wash their hands afterward (or use a sanitary hand wipe) they could go back to work and contaminate everything they touch.
Hepatitis A is another virus found in infected feces. It can be transmitted in even the tiniest amounts, easily contaminating food and water. If someone with trace amounts of fecal matter on their hands were to touch a tool that many others throughout the day will use, the Hepatitis A virus could spread. While not everyone will have symptoms, those who do experience negative symptoms may suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, extreme lack of energy, or jaundice. It takes about 4 to 8 weeks to recover from Hepatitis A completely.
Exposed liquid and solid waste also attract flies and other insects, creating another oral-fecal route. The flies land on the feces, carrying disease-causing microbes with them and leaving them behind when they land on your hands or food. People end up unknowingly ingesting food with tiny, yet harmful, amounts of defecate matter.
The diseases that open defecation and human waste spread not only harms the health of your employees, but it also costs you money as productivity plummets whenever someone gets sick or refuses to work in an area that reeks of the stench of urine and feces.
Safe and Sanitary Portable Waste Solutions on Job Sites
Leadership should strive to inspire change in behavior and eradicate open defecation on job sites. It’s important not only to educate your workforce on the health risks linked to exposure to human waste but provide workers with a clean alternative to porta-potties.
Brief Relief Personal Lavatory Systems were designed with job sites prone to open defecation in mind. Knowing the realities of the practice, Brief Relief developed a safe and sanitary alternative when workers can’t get to a bathroom.
The Brief Relief Disposable Urinal Bag is a single-use, disposable urinal wag bag. Inside the sturdy plastic bag is a patented blend of polymers and enzymes that convert urine into a deodorized gel. It has a one-way valve that prevents accidents and spills. After use, snap it closed and store it away until you are able to properly dispose it into any trash receptacle. Brief Relief products come with antimicrobial wipes to disinfect your hands afterward and help stop the spread of disease.
The Brief Relief Disposa-John Portable Restroom is a triple barrier portable waste bag and liner for liquid and solid waste. It has multiple closures that seal in the waste and odor while the enzymes and polymers work to break it down and convert it into a deodorized gel. The Disposa-John works well with Brief Relief Portable Commodes, an excellent alternative to porta-potties and a much more portable solution.
Brief Relief helps minimize downtime and increase workers’ morale and productivity. It also helps eliminate health and safety risks on the jobsite, allowing workers to focus on their jobs.