Industry needs to improve menstrual care and sanitary waste facilities

As the engineering and construction professions are challenged to support a petition calling for better sanitary waste disposal facilities within the industry, it is clear that improvement is crucial to the inclusiveness of sectors.

Lucy Lettice is co-founder of &SISTERS

Currently, the Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations do not include sanitary bins. We call for a national shift in the engineering and construction sectors and attitude towards menstrual cycles, where sanitary disposal facilities should be a mandatory requirement in all washrooms.

Without this requirement in place, people currently have to find other ways to dispose of their menstrual products in the middle of their workday, including going offsite to an alternative restroom, placing the waste in their own bags, or even when taking vacations. working to cope with their periods. With menstrual cycles occurring once a month and lasting between three and eight days, that’s a lot of time to waste.

The long-standing underrepresentation of women in the construction and engineering sectors

Women make up just 16.5% of all engineers in the UK – the lowest proportion in Europe. The engineering sector has a long way to go to close the gender gap within the industry, which is why raising awareness of the petition created by Charity Rose is crucial. The petition highlights the gap in workplaces that have traditionally been built for men and the changes that need to be made to encourage more women into the industry, a crucial endeavor given that the construction industry needs 35,000 new workers a year to address the skills shortage.

One of the main reasons for the under-representation of women in the construction industry is working conditions. Although there have been improvements in recent years, particularly with on-site facilities, there are still many venues that do not provide separate wellness facilities for women. In 2018, a survey by Unite showed that women had to share toilets with men on one in five construction sites, demonstrating the lack of facilities for those who menstruate.

In other sectors, we are seeing a growing number of companies now not only offering sanitary disposals, but in fact treating periodic bathroom care as being of equal importance to toilet paper rolls. By offering free periodic care, companies are taking an important step towards becoming a period-friendly employer by providing these essential health items. Since employees are not expected to carry toilet paper to their workplace, employers should view periodic care in the same way. As other industries adopt this way of thinking, the construction and engineering sectors should respond more seriously to thinking about work shifts.

As women are currently in the minority in the industry, they need to have allies in place to support them and encourage them to stay in the industry. This includes changing the current CDM regulations which do not specifically include sanitary waste disposal facilities, but only appropriate and sufficient sanitary facilities. It also raises a broader question of why sanitary waste disposal facilities are not a legal requirement in all workplaces. The current Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 do not cover all types of workplaces, including construction sites, which means that menstruating people are currently only not protected in the workplace.

Measures to improve menstrual health at work

To support menstruating people in the workplace, organizations should ensure they have adequate wellness and sanitary waste disposal facilities for all employees. Employees shouldn’t have to travel to find a bathroom when they’re on their period, or put trash in their bags to throw away when they get home. There should be free periodic care available in the bathrooms – why should employers provide free toilet rolls but not sanitary pads and tampons?

At the same time, employers need to ensure managers have access to high-quality menstrual health information with training and guidance on how to create a positive approach that normalizes discussions about menstrual health in the office. By fostering a culture where people who menstruate are comfortable talking about their periods and where they have access to appropriate social services, employers will help break down the stigma around menstruation. This, in turn, will improve the support menstruating people feel in the engineering and construction industries, working towards a more inclusive future that encourages employment, helps employee retention and improves commitment.

Do you like what you read? To receive daily and weekly New Civil Engineer newsletters, click here.

Comments are closed.