July 31, 2012
FEATURE | Site Services
Portable restroom market adjusts to new Ontario Ministry of Labour guidelines
Portable construction restrooms in Ontario are due for an upgrade.
A recent focus by the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) on its Infectious Diseases and Sanitation Strategy at Ontario Construction Sites under its 2011-2012 Construction Sector Plan has significantly changed requirements of portable toilets serving the construction industry.
Under the plan, enforcement will focus on the “hazardous agents associated with fecal-oral transmission” — in other words, diseases that can be spread by people who don’t properly wash their hands at construction sites. Those effects include gastrointestinal illnesses such as diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, hepatitis, polio and listeria.
The emphasis is two-pronged. Part of the effort involves getting workers to properly wash their hands; the other, on providing workers with the facilities that encourage them to wash effectively.
While alcohol-based hand sanitizers found in current model portable restrooms were once considered adequate, units must now be fitted, where “reasonably possible,” with a washbasin providing hot and cold or warm running water at any construction project served by a road. That’s because the portable toilet provider needs to supply clean water by service truck.
The regulatory changes embodied in Ontario Regulation 213/91 under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) have directly impacted the operations of K. Winter Sanitation Inc., of Innisfil, Ont., a portable restroom operator located north of Toronto. About 85 per cent of the company’s business is generated by the construction industry.
“Alcohol hand sanitizers are not good enough for the construction industry where hands may already be covered with dirt that could contain occupational contaminants like lead or asbestos,” says company vice-president Roger Winter.
“Hand sanitizer just moves the dirt around and doesn’t achieve what it’s supposed to do by killing the germs on the person hands. The emphasis on warm water and antibacterial soap is simply this — if the water is cold, people tend to wash for only for four to five seconds. If the water is warm, they’ll wash for 15 seconds or more.”
Winter notes that, in the past, construction contractors ordering the units were generally assumed to be responsible for ensuring all rentals were compliant with provincial regulations. Not so. Section 31(1) of OHSA requires that every person who supplies, rents or leases equipment “shall ensure that the equipment is in good condition and complies with the Act and regulations.”
“An aging stock of existing portable toilet units falls short of the regulatory requirements,” says Winter. “However, there isn’t a lot of enforcement out there yet.”
To become compliant, portable restroom operators will either have to buy new units or retrofit old ones. As a manufacturer of its own rental units, K. Winter has tailored its designs to suit the new regulations.
Aimed for full production in August, its new Electrical Safety Authority Approved modular high-rise units feature a warm water sink supplied by a patented electrical heater tube, a flush toilet with trap, water flush urinal, heating, lighting, a ground fault interrupter, paper towels and antibacterial hand soap.
“Like some older high-rise models, this one featured a urinal on the rear of the unit,” says Winter.
“However, MOL regulations now state that each worker is entitled to as much privacy and protection as possible. In old designs, the urinal section had an open back and no roof. However in high-rise building projects, particularly those in which workers of both sexes are represented, privacy was becoming a bigger concern, so the urinal section is inside the rise unit and a collapsible roof protects it from above.”
MOL regulations require restroom units on every third floor in high-rise construction, again wherever practical. The new K. Winter units are designed to roll through finished 30-inch doorframes, allowing them to be placed on any floor by interior elevator.
“The availability of the design itself makes it ‘practical’ to offer restrooms on any floor, for new construction or for renovation,” says Winter.
“If the MOL begins to thoroughly enforce its regulations, we should find ourselves in the position to meet them.”
K. Winter has supplied 10 of the new units for field-testing on the Union Station Revitalization project for clients VanBots and Carillion. Winter says the client was eager to test the new models in the underground portion of the project venue, which imposes height restrictions on construction equipment. Public interest in the Union Station project has also provided the company with a little unexpected promotion.
“When they were showing the job site on CITY-TV’s Breakfast Television, two of our units were on-camera,” says Winter.
“If I never get on television, at least one of my restrooms will.”
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