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Cal/OSHA Field Sanitation and Single-User Restroom Legislation

Bryan Little, Farm Employers Labor Service

Updated April 3, 2017

In March 2017, new California legislation sponsored by Assembly Member Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) began to require business establishments, places of public accommodation, and government agencies to place signage on any single-use toilet facility indicating that facility is available for use by all genders.  Under this new law, “single-user toilet facility means a toilet facility with no more than one water closet and one urinal with a locking mechanism controlled by the user.”  

Assembly Member Ting’s bill added a provision of the Health and Safety Code, Section 118600, specifying this new requirement for single-user restrooms.  At the time of the bill’s passage, questions began to arise about whether or how the new single-user restroom requirement might impact portable toilets provided by agricultural employers as required by the Field Sanitation standard, Section 3457 of Cal/OSHA’s regulations:

  • Does the Ting bill apply in a situation where portable chemical toilets are provided for the use of agricultural employees?  Section 118600 appears to require new all-gender signage for single-user restrooms with permanent, fixed, plumbed toilets; but what about other types of toilets.  While chemical toilets used for field sanitation appear to meet some of the criteria for single-user restrooms, such as being a single-use facility and locking from the inside, it’s not clear that field sanitation facilities were envisioned to be covered.
  • Is a farm field where workers are performing agricultural work a “business establishment” and thus a covered location under the Ting bill?
  • How might the Ting bill impact the provision in the field sanitation standard that “separate toilet facilities for each sex shall be provided for each twenty employees or fraction thereof”? 
  • Does the requirement to “provide separate toilet facilities” mean the employer must provide signage indicating the sex for which the facility is intended? 

On March 31, 2017 Cal/OSHA issued a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) on its website clarifying its enforcement position with respect to the requirements of the Ting bill and how those requirements interact with various Cal/OSHA requirements for provision of toilet facilities, including the Agricultural Field Sanitation Standard, 8 CCR Section 3457. 

"Toilet facilities that are multiple-user or contain other than a flush toilet (e.g. chemical toilets, recirculating tiolets, combustion toilets, biological toilets, and sanitary privies) are not covered by section 118600 and must still be provided separately for males and females," according to the updated Cal/OSHA website.

As a result of this clarification of Cal/OSHA's enforcement position, agricultural employers' compliance requirements for the Field Sanitation standard are essentially the same as they have always been since 1991. While the Field Sanitation standard has always required provision of "separate toilet facilities for each sex," the standard does not specify how this provision of separate facilities will be accomplished (for example with signage indicating which particular toilets are intended for which gender).  No signage is required by the Field Sanitation standard, and Cal/OSHA's FAQ indicates its enforcement policy in this regard will not change.  In sum, agricultural employers can comply fully with the Field Sanitation standard by providing one toilet for each sex for each 20 employees or fraction thereof (eg. a crew of 20 men would require one toilet, while a crew of 18 men and two women would require two toilets).  

Agricultural employers also sometimes have single-user toilets in fixed facilities, such as dairy barns, winery tasting rooms, and packing sheds. Employers with single-user facilities with flushable toilets must apply the newly required signs to those facilities. To meet the law’s requirement, all-gender signs must consist of a 12-inch diameter circle with an equilateral triangle superimposed on it. The two shapes must each be one-quarter inch thick and be in contrasting colors.

Finally, acknowledging the superiority of the new signage law in applicable situations, Cal/OSHA in its FAQ states that the new law overrides the requirements of its standards “in cases where employers provide single-user toilet facilities with flush toilets for their employees. In those situations, Cal/OSHA still enforces the total numbers of toilet facilities required for males and females combined, as well as the individual numbers required for males and females separately as provided in [those standards], but no longer enforces the requirement that a toilet facility with a flush toilet be designated as single-gender if it is single-user.”

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