Toilet facilities - what should workplaces have?

Toilet facilities are an important part of the workplace. We'll walk you through what the OHS Act and other legislation says about what toilet facilities workplaces should have.

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Toilet facilities in the OHS Act

There is no specific requirement regarding toilets in the Victorian OHS Act - only that the employer must provide "adequate facilities" for employees [Section 21(2)(d)]. So what does this mean?

The Workplace Facilities and Work Environment Compliance Code (Clauses 42 - 60) contains more information which an employer should comply with:

Generally, separate toilets need to be provided in workplaces where there are both male and female employees.

However, in workplaces where the total number of people who usually work there is 10 or fewer, one all genders toilet (sometimes called ‘unisex’) may be provided for employees instead of separate male and
female toilets.

If only one toilet is provided, this needs to be a fully accessible toilet. An accessible toilet is a toilet which is fully accessible by persons of all genders with a disability, including for wheelchair use, and contains a sanitary disposal unit. The signage for these toilets is usually a wheelchair and signage should include braille. Where relevant, employers also need to comply with accessible toilet requirements (including minimum numbers) in the National Construction Code or Australian Standards such as AS 1428.1 Design for access and mobility. 

A unisex toilet comprises one closet pan, one washbasin and means for the disposal of sanitary items. For example, a workplace with two male and eight female employees, or with one female and three male employees, could have a unisex toilet, because there are 10 or less employees in total, and two or less employees of one gender.

The following table sets out what WorkSafe considers to be the minimum number of toilets, urinals, and washbasins needed for employees in a workplace, so far as is reasonably practicable.

These ratios are based on the number of employees, the make-up of the workforce and the type of building. These numbers include the provision of at least one all genders toilet in every workplace for every 50 employees, so far as is reasonably practicable. All-genders toilets are in addition to the need to provide an accessible toilet

Paragraphs 49 of the Code defines an all-genders toilet facility as a toilet which does not have gendered signage and can be used by a person of any gender or gender identity. The signage for these toilets should be a silhouette of a toilet with the words ‘All genders’ or ‘All-genders’ above or below the picture and should include braille. They should be in an ambulant accessible sanitary compartment and contain a
sanitary disposal unit, but do not need to contain a urinal.

Paragraph 50 advises if it is not reasonably practicable to provide the number of all genders toilets set out in Appendix D, employers need to determine what else they can do to minimise the risk to employees that do not have access to an all gender toilet.

NOTE: the Building Code of Australia, which sets out these numbers, has the following clarification on 'urinals'

  1. A urinal may be—

    (a) an individual stall or wall-hung urinal; or
    (b) each 600 mm length of a continuous urinal trough; or
    (c) a closet pan used in place of a urinal

The code states that the facilities must be clean and hygienic. Where it is not reasonably practicable to provide access to permanent toilets, portable toilets need to be provided (clause 47). These must be installed securely, and be provided with a lockable door, lighting and ventilation.

Clause 49: Toilets need to be:

  • fitted with a hinged seat and lid
  • provided with adequate lighting and ventilation
  • clearly marked
  • fitted with a hinged door capable of locking from the inside on each cubicle
  • designed to enable emergency access
  • located separately from any other room by a soundproof wall or by a separate entrance
  • separated from any other room by an airlock

In terms of access to toilets, the Code states:

50. In most cases, employers are expected to provide toilet facilities for employees, rather than relying on access to external public toilets.

51. Toilets need to be accessible, preferably located inside a building or as close as possible to the workplace, to eliminate or reduce any risk to employee safety while accessing them. In multi-storey buildings, toilets need to be located on at least every second storey. For short-term temporary workplaces and workplaces in remote areas, a temporary toilet needs to be provided in a secure place with safe access.

52. Sometimes, when workplaces are temporary, remote or mobile, employers are unable to provide toilets for employees. In these cases employers need to provide the amenity by ensuring employees have access to other toilets, such as public toilets or toilets at client premises. Clear directions on where the toilets are located also need to be provided.

The code also provides advice on other facilities, such as hand washing and shower facilities. Note: it makes no comment on the quality of the water in such facilities (as opposed to the quality of drinking water).

53. Toilets provided by employers need to be equipped with:

  • an adequate supply of toilet paper for each toilet
  • hand washing facilities consistent with the requirements of the compliance code
  • rubbish bins
  • adequate and hygienic means for disposing of sanitary items for toilets used by female employees

In terms of maintaining amenities:

26.Workplace amenities need to be maintained so that they continue to meet the needs of employees. This means they need to be hygienic, safe, secure and in serviceable condition.

27. Consumable items, such as soap and toilet paper, need to be replenished regularly. Broken or damaged infrastructure and fittings (such as plumbing, air conditioning and lighting) needs to be repaired promptly. Equipment and furniture... need to be maintained in good repair so that employees can use them safely.

28. Workplaces and amenities need to be cleaned regularly, usually daily. The cleaning schedule needs to take into account the requirement for hygienic maintenance of amenities such as dining areas, toilets, hand basins and showers. These amenities need to be cleaned more frequently, taking into account shift work, the type of work performed and the number of employees.

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What about workers who are mobile?

The Compliance Code states:

125: Employers need to ensure that mobile, temporary and remote employees have reasonable access to basic facilities. For example, employees need to have reasonable access to toilets, drinking water,
dining facilities, or to hygienic storage for food and water. Although they may not control the mobile workplace, employers must consult with their employees about adequate mobile workplace facilities. Employers should, for example, arrange with clients to allow their employees to use their facilities, such as toilets. If this is not reasonably practicable, then employers need to give their employees clear direction about the location of public facilities that they can use. Employers may need to provide water to mobile employees for their health and welfare.

The Compliance Code: Workplace facilities and the working environment can be accessed and downloaded from the Victorian WorkSafe website. It is also possible to request a hard copy via the WorkSafe publications unit. 

NOTE: Also from WorkSafe (February 2012) a Guidance Note: Portable toilets on worksites

Last amended February 2024