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Providing a dignified and hygienic washroom experience for women

By Dr Peter Barratt, Technical Manager, Initial Washroom Hygiene

Monday is Menstrual Hygiene Day, aiming to raise awareness around access to feminine hygiene facilities and products around the world.

While ‘period poverty’ is a more severe problem in the developing world, it’s remarkable how many women in developed nations don’t have access to proper hygiene facilities and products. Inadequate access to sanitary facilities still happens across the UK – with over half of the female respondents in an Initial Washroom Hygiene survey saying they had experienced a situation in which there was no feminine hygiene unit available when they needed one.

Facilities managers and employers have a duty of care towards all their employees. They need to ensure they are providing appropriate facilities for people to dispose of their products in a safe and hygienic manner to prevent cross contamination. Failure to do so results not only in unhappy washroom visitors but can have wider environmental and financial consequences.

Encouraging discrete and hygienic disposal
Providing female washroom visitors with a discreet way to dispose of feminine hygiene waste is a vital consideration for the provision of a clean and pleasant washroom environment. Step one of the process is to provide all washroom cubicles with a sanitary disposal bin. Available in a range of styles, including manual, pedal, and automatic, these bins should sit neatly beside the toilet.

To enhance washroom facilities further, Initial’s hygienic sanitary bins contain a unique insert, called ‘Biofresh.’ This offers exceptional control of any bad odours, as well as containing an anti-microbial solution, insect repellent and a pleasant citrus fragrance. Providing a washroom cubicle design that offers the visitor maximum comfort also helps to encourage proper waste disposal. Units with automatic, or no-touch capabilities help to make sanitary disposal simple and ensure users are encouraged to dispose of waste in the most ecological way possible, rather than simply flushing bulky and potentially harmful waste down the toilet.

Unfortunately, many women in the UK still struggle to afford sanitary products, with a survey by Plan International UK finding that one in 10 girls have been unable to afford sanitary products. Resorting to alternative measures can result in health risks, such as an increased risk of developing reproductive and urinary tract infections. Future washroom facilities should embrace any opportunities to provide compact vending dispensers at the point of use i.e. in washroom cubicles, that provide access to free sanitary products for those who cannot afford them or have been caught unawares – to ensure women are able to take control of their menstrual hygiene. For example, Initial Washroom Hygiene provides a bespoke sanitary product dispenser service in Scotland, where the problem of ‘Period Poverty’ has been debated and taken very seriously by the Scottish Government.  These units are being installed in a number of educational facilities looking to provide a choice of sanitary products free of charge to washroom users.

Preventing blockages
The Water Industries Act (1991) stipulates that no sanitary waste should be flushed away that can cause harm to the sewer or drain. However, blockages and sewage leaks continue to ravage our water systems, with recent research from Initial Washroom Hygiene finding that almost two in five British consumers have flushed items down the toilet they shouldn’t have. With blocked sewers costing the UK up to £88m a year to unblock, it goes without saying that flushing the wrong items down the toilet can have drastic consequences both financially and environmentally.

To flush or not to flush?
Sanitary items are one of the main causes of toilet blockages, which can be expensive for facilities managers to remedy. Despite legislation making it mandatory for sanitary waste facilities to be provided in workplace and public washrooms, many women in the UK have experienced a situation in which there was no feminine hygiene unit located in the toilet cubicle when they needed one. Over a quarter (27%) said they had ‘no choice’ but to flush in these situations. Providing reliable and durable sanitary disposal units in your facility will help prevent blockages in your washroom and could save you from expensive repairs.

The Environmental Protection Act (1990) imposes a duty of care on organisations that produce, keep or dispose of controlled waste, including sanitary waste. At Initial, we ensure businesses are equipped with the best sanitary disposal units to encourage responsible waste disposal in their premises.

The next steps
Where waste disposal units are required, it’s essential that collected waste can be disposed of both efficiently and sustainably. Initial offers a feminine hygiene waste disposal service that helps businesses dispose of sanitary waste in a secure, sensitive and environmentally friendly way. More importantly, our approach to waste disposal ensures that businesses are fully compliant with UK regulations.

Most visitors to the toilet will dispose of their sanitary waste without a second thought as to what happens to it afterwards. However, for Initial Washroom Hygiene, this is the first stage of an important waste disposal journey. We dispatch fully trained customer delivery representatives from one of our 17 local waste transfer stations to service a variety of premises.

These visits are scheduled in advance and are performed regularly to guarantee both a consistent and hygienic approach; this involves exchanging or emptying feminine hygiene sanitary bins on each visit. Waste disposal should be a highly controlled and hygienic business, and regularly servicing the units helps to ensure and maintain a high level of hygiene within washrooms.

The importance of compliance
Sanitary waste disposal within the UK is governed by legislation, and UK businesses need to be sure they are compliant with this. Adhering to sanitary waste disposal regulations ensures businesses comply with the safe disposal of sanitary waste according to The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (1992), The Water Industries Act (1991), and the Environmental Protection Act (1990).

However, just as important is the moral obligation to provide women with a dignified washroom experience. In the fight against period poverty, facilities managers and employers must take ownership to ensure access to female hygiene units to dispose of waste correctly.




About Sarah OBeirne

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