Workplace welfare facilities and healthy working environment
How to comply with employee welfare regulations in the workplace by providing facilities and maintaining a safe, healthy working environment
As an employer you must protect the safety and health of everyone in your workplace. This includes people with disabilities. You must provide welfare facilities and a healthy environment for your employees.
Welfare facilities include toilets that are accessible for disabled employees and visitors, an area to wash, and clean drinking water. You will also need to consider lighting, ventilation and temperature for your employees in their working environment.
Welfare facilities at work
Your legal duty to provide welfare facilities for employees, such as toilets, drinking water and clothes storage
For your employees' well-being you need to provide:
- toilets and hand basins, with soap and towels or a hand-dryer
- drinking water
- a place to store clothing (and somewhere to change if special clothing is worn for work)
Consider the needs of employees with disabilities. They must be able to easily access these facilities. See disabled access and facilities in business premises.
Workplace toilet and washing facilities
You have to provide adequate toilet and washing facilities for your employees. You must 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
- a supply of toilet paper and, for female employees, a means of disposing of sanitary dressings
- facilities that are well lit and ventilated
- facilities with hot and cold running water
- enough soap
- a basin large enough to wash hands and forearms if required
- a means for drying hands, eg paper towels or a hot air dryer
- showers if needed, eg for particularly dirty work
If possible, you should provide flushing toilets and running water. You can hire portable welfare cabins which are purpose built and contain toilet facilities and a canteen etc. If this is not practical, as a last resort you can consider alternatives such as chemical toilets and water containers. Relying on public toilets is only suitable for a very small number of temporary workplaces.
How many toilets per person in the workplace?
The following tables show how many toilets and wash basins you should provide per number of employees.
For mixed use or female only:
|Number of employees||Number of toilets||Number of washbasins|
Toilets used by men only:
|Number of men at work||Number of toilets||Number of urinals|
Ensure you consider the needs of employees with disabilities when planning toilet facilities.
Meal break and rest facilities
There should be a seating area for workers to use during breaks. It needs to be clean, hygienic and located where food will not get contaminated. There should be washing facilities nearby. There should be a way for staff to heat food or water for hot drinks. You must provide drinking water.
If 'reasonably practical' you must provide rest facilities for pregnant or nursing mothers.
You don't need to provide a smoking room. Smoking indoors is banned in almost all enclosed workplaces. See workplace policies on smoking drugs and alcohol.
Changing and clothing storage facilities
If the work activity requires your employees to wear specialist clothing (overalls, a uniform, thermal clothing etc), then you must provide changing rooms. If you provide a changing room, it should:
- be readily accessible
- contain, or lead directly to, clothing storage and washing facilities
- provide seating
- provide a way to hang clothes - eg a hook or peg
- ensure the privacy of the user
You should provide separate changing facilities for men and women.
Try to prevent employees' own clothing getting dirty or wet. Provide separate storage for clean and contaminated clothing which:
- allows wet clothing to be hung up to dry out during the course of the day
- is well ventilated
Healthy and safe working environment
How to ensure that you provide a health working environment for your employees, including ventilation, lighting and space
You have a legal duty to ensure a healthy working environment for your staff. You must make sure there is:
- good ventilation - a supply of fresh, clean air drawn from outside or a ventilation system
- a reasonable working temperature - see safe working temperatures
- lighting suitable for the work being carried out
- enough room, space and suitable workstations and seating
- a clean workplace with appropriate waste containers
Safe working environment
To keep your workplace safe you must:
- properly maintain your premises and work equipment
- keep floors and traffic routes free from obstruction - see avoid trips and slips in the workplace
- have windows that can be opened and also cleaned safely
- make sure that any transparent (eg glass) doors or walls are protected or made of safety material
Working environment risks
Consider some of the following ways to reduce work environment risks:
- Computer health and safety at work - consider equipment, training and workstation design to prevent injuries for computer users. Task design and breaks are also important.
- Personal protective equipment can help reduce the harm from the working environment risks such as heat, noise and vibration.
- Manage the risks of diseases, allergens and infections in the workplace by providing the correct toilet and washing facilities. Consider equipment and procedures for high-risk work.
- Consider the health and safety for people working outdoors. You are responsible for a safe and healthy working environment, even if it is off-site.
- Ensure your employees work safely at height or in a confined space. Use the right procedures and equipment to reduce risks.
Safe working temperatures
Employers have a legal duty to ensure that working environments are a 'reasonable temperature'.
What is a reasonable working temperature?
The law does not state specific temperatures that are considered reasonable. You must determine what reasonable comfort will be in the particular circumstances.
Best practice dictates the working environment should usually be at least 16°C, or 13°C for strenuous work (unless other laws require lower temperatures). There is no advice for specific limits on high temperatures.
Thermal comfort at work
The temperature of the working environment affects workers' comfort and safety. This should form part of your health and safety risk assessment.
A person suffering from heat stress may experience muscle cramps, lack of concentration and severe thirst. This can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
In cold environments, employees may lose concentration or take short cuts. Cold temperatures can lead to frostbite and hypothermia.
You must take steps to control the risks of extreme temperatures. This could involve providing personal protective equipment or redesigning tasks.
Working in hot conditions
Employers must ensure that staff have access drinking water. In hot conditions, employees may need to drink more water than usual - you should encourage this. You must also ensure the working environment has adequate ventilation.
Consider the following measures to help your staff stay comfortable in hot conditions:
- supply cold drinks
- relax dress codes so employees can wear cooler clothing
- provide air conditioning or fans
- allow employees to work in the shade
- reschedule strenuous work
- provide adequate breaks to let employees cool down and drink water
If your staff work outside they may be at particular risk of certain hazards in hot weather. Consider shade, rest break and sun safety. Wearing a hat, suitable clothing and sunscreen can help protect the skin from ultraviolet (UV) damage. See health and safety risks for people working outdoors.
Working in cold conditions
The steps you can take to ensure thermal comfort when working in the cold include:
- provide adequate workplace heating, eg portable heaters
- reduce draughts
- provide insulating floor coverings or special footwear when employees have to stand for long periods on cold floors
- provide protective clothing for cold environments
- provide enough breaks to allow employees to get hot drinks or to warm up in heated areas