OHS Matters: Toilet Access During COVID-19

COVID-19 – and the measures workplaces are having to take in seeking to minimise the risk of workers contracting the disease – is continuing to have consequences, sometimes unforeseen ones. The VTHC gets some interesting questions from workers – here’s one:

“I’m a truck driver and make deliveries to, and pick up containers from, various companies and locations. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, I am constantly getting denied access to toilets. Previously there were no problems with me using their facilities. Is this legal? Can these companies deny me access to the toilets when I’m doing deliveries? On one occasion recently three clients in a row wouldn’t allow me to use their facilities, and this created a real problem for me.”



This is a terrible situation – it seems that these companies are being extremely inflexible in how they are implementing government advice to limit the number of people who are not employees from entering the workplace.  
Do you have set places you deliver to? Are you employed by a company/have an employer? Or do you work for a particular company? If so, then your employer has a duty of care to you under the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act.

This is what I recommend that you do:

• Contact your employer/the company you work for

• Let them know what the issue is and request that they contact their clients to get agreement that they allow their delivery drivers to use the facilities. This would need to be based on the drivers agreeing to follow the protocols and instructions as per the workplace COVIDSafe plan. This would possibly include: 

• Wearing masks

• Washing/santising hands prior to entering and exiting the toilets/workplace

• Signing in and providing contact details

• If you are a self-employed person you would still be getting instructions from someone/a company, and they have a duty to you as a contactor. 

The Workplace Amenities and Work Environment Compliance Code, which provides advice to employers on what they need to do to ensure they are complying with their duty of care under the Act, states:

“108. Employers need to ensure that mobile and remote employees have reasonable access to amenities and facilities. For example, procedures need to be developed that provide mobile employees with access to dining facilities, hygienic storage of food and water, and toilets. This may include ensuring arrangements are made at customers’ or suppliers’ workplaces or the provision of information regarding publicly located facilities.“

Actually - what I would do before you do all the above is to speak to the most senior person at the site - point out that they previously allowed you to use the facilities and should keep doing so, as long as you comply with the workplace COVIDSafe measures - physical distancing, hygiene, mask wearing, and so on. This would not put anyone at risk, and it is unreasonable to prevent you from using the facilities - and if they do so they are putting your health and safety at risk. If they refuse, then let them know that this is not acceptable and that you will be following up with your employer/firm you work with, WorkSafe and with the company. 

Good luck with this - it’s a shame you’re not in a union as the union would have been able to kick up a stink about it.