Summer sales are in full swing in boutiques, mall stores, outlets, and other retail stores, and workers often find themselves spending more time at the register than usual during these busy periods. Regardless of whether the customer line is out the door and down the block, employers should allow their employees to take time for a simple bathroom break when the need arise. Why? Restricting restroom breaks can not only make workers uncomfortable, it can be detrimental to their health-particularly when it comes to female employees, who make up the majority of retail workers. This delay can cause problems that can range from missing days of work to being out for an extended period of time, possibly triggering a clothing workers compensation claim.
The physical damage that can be done
Restriction of urination can result in a lot more than just fidgeting behind the counter. It can result in constipation and abdominal pain, we well as painful hemorrhoids and diverticulitis, and lead to an increased occurrence of urinary tract infections--even renal damage in some circumstances. If the worker suffering the infection happens to be pregnant, even more could be at risk, as these infections have been associated with low birth weight, which in turn can present various health issues for newborn infants.
The frequency of bathroom needs can vary greatly from person to person, and can be affected by other things such as medical conditions and the effects caused by medication, or even the weather, as employees tend to consume more fluids during the hot summer months. To address this diversity of need, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) mandates that employers provide reasonable access to facilities in the workplace, and further requires restrooms to be kept in clean condition; provide hot and cold (or at least warm) running water; offer soap or some other type of product designed to cleanse the hands; and offer towels, clean cloths, or air dryers to dry the hands.
Gotta go right now?
Talk to a professional insurance agent, who can provide risk management information about conforming to OHSA requirements regarding the appropriate number of restrooms (the number varies depending on how many employees are on site), as well as a comprehensive clothing workers compensation coverage program that will offer protection for both employers and employees. Also, consider establishing a discreet signal for employees to use to alert others of their need to be relieved for a restroom break, so that another employee can quickly move into position and free up the worker to go without delay.