Factors such as age, bowel health, diet, and the presence of underlying conditions all play roles in determining how often we need to go to the bathroom. Therefore, no two people will have identical frequencies and timing when it comes to the need to relieve themselves. With that in mind, companies need to be fair when it comes to policies on restroom breaks in working environments.
If you deny your employees the right to go to the bathroom, your organization could face disciplinary measures. In 2014, the WaterSaver Faucet Co. found itself in court after their employees filed complaints against the company for their limitations on toilet breaks.
WaterSaver Faucet Co. was penalized because 19 of their employees were exceeding the allowable 30-minute per week bathroom break limit. The company’s bathroom policy allowed each employee only 6 minutes of bathroom time per day. The company installed a tracking system to monitor how much time each employee spent in the bathroom. They required employees to swipe their ID card to gain access to the bathroom. The company even offered $20 gift card incentives to workers who don’t use the restroom at all during their shift.
While this company’s bathroom policy may seem unfair, technically they didn’t break the law. According to OSHA, there is “no federal standard for the number of allowed restroom breaks or any specific restroom usage schedule exists.” Furthermore, OSHA states, “Any restrictions an employer implements on restroom access is monitored on a case-by-case basis.”
In the case of WaterSaver, the company’s strict bathroom policy was implemented after they discovered the 120 hours of production lost in one month due to the amount of time their employees spent in the bathroom.
Breaking Down the Costs of Bathroom Breaks
WaterSaver isn’t the first organization to do the math and realize how much the breaks are costing their company. The average person needs to go to the bathroom six or seven times a day. Because of the amount of time we spend at work, it’s not uncommon for us to visit the toilet at least three times during our workday.
While the actual act of peeing or pooping only takes a few minutes, bathroom breaks have been known to take people away from their work for much longer than it should. Some bathrooms are a distance away; employees may need to walk the length of the hallway or go to another floor.
There’s also the issue of a queue if it’s an office where many workers share only a few bathrooms. Of course, there’s also the issue of employees getting distracted and engaging in small talk with coworkers they bump into. Add the time it takes a person to reach the bathroom, wait their turn, do their business, walk back to their office or cubicle, and you could be looking at 10-15 minutes lost on one bathroom break. If a person takes three of these 10-15-minute bathroom breaks, that’s a total of 30-45 minutes in one day or 2½ to almost 4 hours a week.
If employees spend a minimum of 30 minutes each week in the bathroom, you could be looking at an average of $6,250 per employee lost over 50-weeks.
The Impact Bathroom Breaks Have on Productivity Costs in Certain Sectors
If bathroom breaks cost businesses located in office buildings this much, imagine the impact that restroom breaks have on sectors where toilets are not easily accessible. Industries such as construction, utility, solar, mining, electrical, and wind energy mean field work or working conditions that don’t have easy access to facilities.
Companies lose a lot of money in production not because workers take an unreasonable amount of time taking breaks, but because getting to the nearest restroom facility could mean walking for miles or climbing down hundreds of feet of stairs.
Wind turbine technicians climb hundreds of feet each day to inspect tower exteriors, repair equipment, collect turbine data, and perform routine maintenance. The turbine nacelles can be over 300-400 feet high, and the only way up is via a vertical metal ladder. The wind tech works inside the hub of the wind turbine rotor or dangles from a secure harness on a rope.
A typical day for a wind tech starts very early in the morning. The days are long and demanding as technicians need to climb the turbines multiple times a day. However, the need to go up and down is often related to the work itself – repairing gearboxes and blades, inspecting the borescope, testing electrical components, or changing out batteries.
The climb is so demanding that turbines typically have three platforms for workers to take a rest. Enough time is spent climbing up and down the turbines all day. Now imagine adding the time lost by going up and down when a tech has to go to the bathroom. One interruption means descending to the ground to reach a porta-potty and climbing back up a few hundred feet.
Some wind turbines have service lifts that can take the worker to the top in about 8 minutes. While a free climb takes 10 minutes, it can be exhausting. Naturally, the descent is much more comfortable and can take as little as 5 minutes. Together, the decline and the ascent take about 15 minutes. Add that to the time it takes to pee or poop, and that’s already a 20-minute bathroom break.
If a worker had to make a bathroom run three times a day, that’s an hour per day or 5 hours per week lost to restroom breaks. And if the average wage is $21.55 per hour, you’re losing approximately $5,172 a year due to toilet visits.
As demanding as wind turbine technician work is, people are flocking to become a part of this industry. According to the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Employment of wind turbine service technicians, also known as wind techs, is projected to grow 108 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.”
In order for the wind energy sector and industries with similar working conditions to thrive, they need to realize that incentivizing avoiding the bathroom is not a solution. In actuality, a company does more harm than good when you reward employees who ignore the urgency to go as holding it in can lead to all sorts of health complications.
Rather than limit the allotment of time workers are allowed to relieve themselves, companies should be looking at alternative lavatory solutions for wind techs, miners, construction workers, and other workers who lose valuable production time whenever they have to travel a long distance to the nearest bathroom.
Brief Relief, the leader in personal lavatory systems, did the math and discovered that many companies lose thousands of dollars per employee on bathroom breaks that take longer than they should due to the unavailability or inaccessibility of facilities at their location or job site.
Brief Relief solved this problem by providing a specially engineered portable Waste Bag solution that encapsulates liquid and solid waste. The Brief Relief Liquid Waste Bag and Disposa-John Portable Restroom are spill-proof, leak-proof, odorless, ultra light-weight, compact, sturdy, portable, and can be disposed in any trash receptacle.