Contractors: Are You Violating OSHA's Portable Toilet Guidelines?

When nature calls, workers need ready access to a loo.


When nature calls, workers need ready access to a loo. Employers could pay a price if they don’t provide enough toilets or keep them clean.

Access to clean bathrooms — with toilet paper! — is something all workers expect and deserve. If contractors fail to provide it, their employees may not be the only ones who pay the price.

OSHA requires contractors to provide portable toilets for jobsite workers under per Standard 1926.51, which says employers must furnish:

  • One toilet for 20 employees or less  
  • One toilet seat and one urinal per 40 workers when an employer has 20 employees or more   
  • One toilet seat and one urinal per 50 workers when an employer has 200 employees or more

But that's not all. The toilets need to be “readily available.” In general, that means workers should be able to reach one within 10 minutes. And toilets aren’t considered “available” if they’re dirty to the point of being unsanitary.

While there are no specifics in the OSHA standard about how often portable toilets must be cleaned, the agency references the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) standard, which says that if 20 people are using one toilet, it should be serviced at least twice a week. If 10 people are using one toilet, once-a-week servicing should be enough.

Employers are not permitted to institute key-only access to toilet facilities unless there’s a good reason — and, even then, that restriction must be temporary.

While sullied toilets fall pretty far down the list of jobsite safety hazards, violations of the OSHA standard are still subject to monetary penalties. A first offense costs up to $12,675 per violation. Failure to fix the problem could cost the same amount per day, while the fine for a repeat violation could reach as high as $126,749.

Renting enough toilets and having them cleaned regularly is a lot cheaper.

To learn more about United Rentals and portable restroom rental click here.


porta potties outside housing construction
Need help? Contact a United Rentals expert today.

Our United Rentals team is quick to respond and prepared to answer all your questions — even the ones you don’t know to ask. Trust us to help you determine how many — and which types of — portable sanitation units you'll need to make your project a success and ensure you remain in compliance with OSHA's guidelines.

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