Welfare in construction: what are the expectations of HSE guidance?

Outsource Safety LtdSafety newsWelfare in construction: what are the expectations of HSE guidance?
December 18, 2023 Posted by Roger Hart

All staff who work in construction must have access to adequate welfare facilities.  This means toilets and facilities to wash, change, eat and rest. The guidance below applies to contractors but this also applies to those clients who are hosting contractors to perform work on their sites.  As the client you must also help to ensure that the arrangements made by your contractors are adequate and decisions on this need to be taken at the planning stage of the project.  Naturally, there will be some variation in what is considered reasonable when you have low numbers of staff and short-duration projects. If you have questions or are already (or wish to become) a member of our Safety~net competent person scheme you can call and speak to any of us for some specific help, guidance and support.  Read on for some simple guidance on what is required and see the bottom of the post for some more links to useful guidance.

Who does this apply to?

Contractors are required to provide welfare facilities and clients must ensure this happens. Decisions and action on this need to be taken at an early stage of project planning.

Clients should co-operate with contractors and help them in situations where providing welfare facilities are difficult.

What does good look like?

Schedule 2 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) lists the welfare facilities that should be in place at any site. This includes:

The type and number of facilities you need depends on the size and type of work. You may need additional facilities (such as showers) to control the risks from hazardous substances like cement, lead or micro-organisms. Also, remember that separate facilities may be needed for men and women.

Where should facilities be positioned?

Consider the positioning of your facilities before starting on site. This will depend on the work you are doing. For fixed sites think about:

  • whether they will have to be moved during the project
  • access for cleaning and maintenance
  • encouraging the use of washing facilities by positioning them near to rest / eating areas
  • the distance from the furthest part of the site to the nearest facilities and how long it takes someone to get there (either walking or by vehicle). This time should be as short as possible. You may need additional toilets and washing facilities for workers in more remote parts of larger sites
  • arrangements for using any existing facilities. You can use those in a local café, public toilets or an occupied building. However, you need to make sure:
    • you have proper agreement with the owner allowing their use (not necessarily in writing)
    • they are available all the time that workers are on site
    • there are measures for keeping them clean and replacing towels, soap, toilet paper etc

Temporary sites, like highway utility or repair work, and workers in remote areas, such as fields, require good welfare too.  Where you put your welfare for this type of work depends on a number of factors such as how long the work will take, the distance from other available facilities and whether there will be any hazardous substances present. Options include:

  • Central compound – workers should be able to access this easily and quickly. Take into account any likely delays due to traffic / distance. You may need ‘satellite’ compounds for more remote workers.
  • Mobile units – a number of different self-contained welfare units are available. Remember when selecting these that they still have to meet certain minimum standards regarding toilets / washing and changing, eating and rest areas.

Welfare: Further Guidance

Construction – Welfare standards – This guidance sets out the approach Inspectors and Visiting Officers take when inspecting issues related to welfare on construction sites.  Detailing interpretation of the requirements of Schedule 2 of CDM

Managing construction health risks: Welfare

L24, Workplace health, safety and welfare, approved code of practice and guidance

L153, Managing health and safety in construction.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 SCHEDULE 2 Minimum welfare facilities required for construction sites

HSE has updated its welfare guidance – Construction welfare standards (hse.gov.uk)

  • Distances are now given for toilet proximity which should prevent people having to drive for miles to use the bathroom – any worker should be within 150m of a toilet on site.
  • For roadworkers they may have to drive to a welfare hub, however the time taken to drive should be the same that it takes to walk 150m, so if it takes 2mins to walk that distance then any drive should not take more than 2mins under normal conditions.
  • For larger sites satellite toilets may be needed.
  • The ratios for toilets per person have changed due to the British Standard being updated – it used to be 1 toilet for 7 people, now it’s 1 for 5 people.
  • Clear consideration is given to the provision of sanitary waste disposal facilities – HSE will be making the provision of sanitary waste disposal facilities a point to assess.  With the changing face of a more inclusive industry, suitable provision must be made for female workers on site.  This is nothing new but it has been overlooked by contractors for years.
  • Use of public conveniences and cafes should be a last resort – with proper planning (as required by CDM) welfare should be available during the entire project.
  • HSE will be checking welfare on all sites.  For larger projects HSE will be tracking back to Clients to determine where the failings have occurred and enforce at that point.