Federal Public Restroom Requirements Initiative

September 30, 2010
By
American Restroom Association’s Federal Public Restroom Requirements Initiative
For presentation at ARA panel at the World Toilet Summit 10:00-11:15 am on Wed 3 Nov 2010
INTERNAL COORDINATION DRAFT of 13 Sept.  - NO PUBLIC ABSTRACT REQUIRED
The lack of publicly available restrooms in the United States is a problem that can be traced to policy gaps at the federal level. Both the Unites States Department of Labor and the United States Department of Health and Human Services have mandates to rectify this problem. The former has acted but the later has not.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regulates workplace restrooms throughout the individual states through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).OSHA provides the necessary regulations to ensure that employees “will not suffer the adverse health effects that can result if toilets are not available” when needed.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is the government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans.   DHHS, however, has failed to recognize the threat to public health if restroom facilities are not available and has remained silent on the issue.  Consequently, as soon as Americans leave their places of employment, they lose their federally-protected restroom privileges.
The results often include the following:
Local schools districts prevent students from using restrooms.
Airlines deny passengers use of toilets throughout flights.
Transit systems put their amenities off limits to passengers.
Local governments simply close tax-supported restrooms.
Recognizing that the mandate of DHHS is to protect the health of all Americans,  The American Restroom Association (ARA) has launched the Federal Public Restroom Requirements Initiative (FPRRI).  The advocacy group is calling on Americans to act through their representatives in Congress to ensure that DHHS spells out the public health requirements related to toilet facilities. This will not require new legislation, only that an existing mandate be met.
The presentation updates ARA’s original policy paper, which references numerous case studies where the basic human right to use a toilet has been denied.   It also looks at recent advocacy efforts of two Oregon groups – the Restroom Laws Movement and Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human – to rally the support of their state’s US. Senators and Members of Congress.

 Federal regulation to protect the health of all Americans and ensure that toilets are available in public places is needed.

The American Restroom Association has identified a regulatory gap and a remedy which requires no new legislation. Here’s a summary of the facts.

The US Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) provides the necessary regulations to ensure that Americans will not suffer the adverse health effects that can result if toilets are not available at their places of work.  The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), however, provides no similar regulation or even guidance to protect Americans outside the workplace.

This lack of federal recognition makes it easy for  schools to prevent students from using the lavatories; for municipalities to close public restrooms; for transit systems to put their amenities off limits to passengers; and for airlines to deny passengers the use of toilets throughout certain flights.

Currently there appear to be no HHS regulations or guidance-based recognition that lack of access to restrooms is a serious health issue.  Since HHS has the mandate to protect the health of all Americans, the Association wants HHS to address this issue at least the degree it has been addressed by OHSA.

In launching the Federal Public Restroom Requirements Initiative, the Association is not  calling for new legislation, only that an existing mandate be met.   They are asking US citizens to bring the issue to the attention of their Congressional Representatives and Senators.

For a thorough discussion of the issues see the American Restroom Association study entitled “US Public Health Mandates and the Restroom Problem in America: A Call To Action.” A slide presentation of the same title is a concise introduction to the call first issued at the 2007 World Toilet Summit in Delhi, India.   For information on how to support FPRRI please see here.

The Federal Public Restroom Requirements Initiative (FPRRI) 

The lack of publicly available restrooms in the United States is a problem that can be traced to policy gaps at the federal level. Both the Unites Stated Department of Labor and the United States Department of Health and Human Services have mandates to rectify this problem. The former has acted but the later has not.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regulates workplace restrooms throughout the individual states through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA provides the necessary regulations to ensure that employees “will not suffer the adverse health effects that can result if toilets are not available” when needed.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is the government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans.   DHHS, however, has failed to recognize the threat to public health if restroom facilities are not available and has remained silent on the issue.  Consequently, as soon as Americans leave their places of employment, they lose their federally-protected restroom privileges.

The results include situations we see nearly every day.  Local schools prevent students from using restrooms. Airlines deny passengers use of toilets sometimes throughout entire flights.  Public transit systems put their amenities off limits to passengers. Local governments simply close tax-supported restrooms.

Recognizing that the mandate of DHHS is to protect the health of all Americans,  The American Restroom Association launched the Federal Public Restroom Requirements Initiative (FPRRI).  The advocacy group is calling on Americans to act through their representatives in Congress to ensure that DHHS spells out the public health requirements related to toilet facilities. This will not require new legislation, only that an existing mandate be met.

Take action:  Write your US Senators and Congressional Reps!

Find the names of your Member of Congress and US Senators here.  For information on writing an effective letter that gets action, see these tips.

We recommend a short three paragraph letter. In the first paragraph, introduce yourself and say you are writing in support of the American Restroom Association’s Federal Publis Restroom Requirements Initiative.   Personalize your letter with an additional sentence explaining why this issue is important to you.

In the second paragraph, state the facts.  Use this sample language if you wish: America’s lack of publicly available restrooms is a problem that can be traced to policy gaps at the national level. Two federal departments are mandated to set policy on restrooms and health. One has acted but the other has not. The U.S. Department of Labor regulates workplace restrooms through the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.  OSHA regulations ensure that employees “will not suffer the adverse health effects that can result if toilets are not available” when needed.  Ordinary citizens deserve the same protection. ‘Protecting the health of all Americans’ is the mandate of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. However, it has not acted to address the adverse health effects of restroom non-availability.

In your third paragraph, request action. I am calling on you to contact Secretary Sebelius  to request that her Department of Health and Human Services spell out public health requirements related to toilets.  No new legislation is needed, only compliance with existing mandates.


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    Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human, or PHLUSH, is an all-volunteer advocacy group based in Portland's Old Town Chinatown. We collaborate with grassroots organizations, environmental activists, planners, architects, code officials and city managers. We receive support from the Old Town Chinatown Community Association and Neighbors West-Northwest. PHLUSH is a member of the World Toilet Organization and a partner in the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.

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