Hesperian Health Guides
Toilets and urinals
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Workers must be able to use the toilet when they need to. If you cannot pass urine when necessary, you may get a bladder infection. This problem affects women more than men, because women get bladder infections more easily.
Toilet rooms should be close to work areas, and there should be enough toilets so no one has to wait in line. The minimum is 1 toilet for every 20 men and 1 for every 20 women. In large factories, several toilet rooms located around the factory are better than one large toilet room.
It is the boss’s responsibility to make sure toilets, wash basins, and wash areas are kept clean, in good repair, and supplied with toilet paper and towels. Waste buckets should be emptied and cleaned every day. Tell the supervisor and maintenance staff if a toilet stops working.
When women have their monthly bleeding, they need soap, water, and privacy. If they cannot change pads or wash during monthly bleeding, they are more likely to get infections. The boss should keep a supply of clean cloth, cotton, or sanitary pads in women’s toilets for women workers to use as needed. Each toilet for women should also have a waste bucket with a lid.
Women are more likely to get infections of the bladder or kidneys, called urinary tract infections or UTIs, when they do not pass urine regularly. A UTI can be treated easily if it is discovered early. However if it is left untreated or if a woman is not allowed to go to the toilet, a simple bladder infection can develop into a serious kidney infection. See Where Women Have No Doctor.
Workers take over the bosses’ toilet
My name is Elena. I work in an electronics factory in Mexico, near the border with the United States. We used to have only 3 toilets for more than 300 workers. We had to wait in lines, and the toilet rooms were always dirty. When we talked about problems in the factory, the toilets were one of the things that bothered us most. One day, when there was a long line, I said to my co-workers, "Let’s use the toilet in the bosses’ office." Together we walked into the office. The bosses were surprised and asked us what we were doing. We told them our toilets were dirty and there was a long line. That time, the bosses let us use their toilet.
We told the rest of the workers they could use the office toilet when there were long lines in the factory. When we started going to the office to use the toilet all the time, the bosses got upset. They said, "This is our toilet, you have your own in the factory." We told them we did not have enough toilets, and that the toilets were always filthy. Finally, the boss added 10 more toilets for the workers and kept them cleaner than before.