Welfare At Work comes under the health and safety umbrella as it is important for employees to not suffer ill health from the working conditions. If you employ anyone, however short the period you must ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’, provide adequate and appropriate welfare facilities for them while they are at work. This means you must provide facilities for employees unless, it is clearly unreasonable in terms of time, trouble, cost and physical difficulty.
Welfare facilities include things like washing, toilets, changing areas, drinks and eating areas for use during breaks. Depending on the size and type of business these may be very basic or comprehensive. Some companies offer far more than they have to so they can increase the facilities that their staff can use. There are set levels that must be provided and you can find out more information from the student download area and the Health and Safety Executive links.
The HSE do identify some areas as follows. Adequate toilets and washing facilities have to be provided for employees. The HSE state that Adequate means you have to provide:
- Enough toilets and washbasins for those expected to use them
- People should not have to queue for long periods to go to the toilet
- Where possible, separate facilities for men and women, failing that, rooms with lockable doors
- Clean facilities, to help achieve this walls and floors should preferably be tiled (or covered with suitable waterproof material)
- A supply of toilet paper and, for female employees, a means of disposing of sanitary dressings
- Facilities should be well lit and ventilated
- Facilities should have hot and cold running water
- Enough soap or other washing agents
- A basin large enough to wash hands and forearms if necessary
- A means for drying hands; Showers where necessary
- You must always consider the needs of those with disabilities.
- Where staff work off-site or in remote areas, employers may need to provide chemical toilets and washing facilities, such as water containers. The use of public toilets and washing facilities should be a last resort and not used just because they are the cheaper option. This would not be acceptable where the provision of better facilities would be reasonably practicable.
- Where working in cold areas employers may have to provide cold weather clothing to ensure the working envirnment is comfortable.
The law requires that employers provide drinking water and ensure that:
- Is free from contamination and is preferably from the public water supply, bottled water dispensers are acceptable as a secondary supply
- Water needs to be is easily accessible to all employees
- There are adequate supplies taking into consideration the temperature of the working environment and types of work activity
- Cups or a drinking fountain are provided
- Drinking water does not have to be marked unless there is a significant risk of people drinking non-drinking water.
- There is no need for a business to provide a smoking room as it is against the law to smoke inside, however businesses sometimes make smoking areas outside to ensure safety for smokers. There should be a suitable seating area for workers to use during breaks, It needs to be clean and located where food will not get contaminated.
There should be washing facilities nearby, and a means of heating food or water for hot drinks. You must maintain good hygiene standards. If the work activity requires your employees to change into and wear specialist clothing like overalls, uniforms, thermal clothing, then you must provide enough changing rooms for the number of people expected to use them.
If it is ‘reasonably practicable’ for you to do so, employers may need to provide a room for pregnant women/nursing mothers to rest or lie down. There is not a definitive list of things an employer must do as all businesses are different. A staff welfare policy may need to be put into effect to ensure that welfare facilities are fit for purpose