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Lifting the lid


Laminate manufacturer Formica Group conducted a survey into the British public’s views and habits regarding public and workplace toilets: Formica’s Joe Bell discusses the findings and how they can inform standard cubicle design.


A range of regulations ensure disabled toilets provide adequate space for accessibility and wheelchair manoeuvrability. Another set of unwritten rules, however, guides who should use them and when.


According to the 2,000 UK adults surveyed, convenience and cleanliness are the main factors encouraging the use of disabled toilets by non-disabled people. The ‘Lifting the Lid on Washrooms’ white paper reveals that 18% of respondents believe a disabled toilet is off limits to those without a disability. More than half, however, consider their use acceptable if it is to avoid queues elsewhere.


Disabled toilets are seen as more hygienic than their standard counterparts because they are used more infrequently. A fifth of people feel using a disabled toilet in such an instance is justifiable. 15% also agree that when a non-disabled user wants more cubicle space, it is fine for them to use a disabled toilet.


Lack of privacy is a key concern for 41% of adults. The data shows that even inside a cubicle people still feel vulnerable. Large gaps between the door and its frame, and between the floor and base of the cubicle door are frowned upon by nearly a half. 22% say they dislike using toilets outside their home specifically for this reason.


The findings indicate an unambiguous preference for both more privacy and additional space. This should be taken into account in cubicle design, and specifying surfacing material in larger dimensions is one way this can be addressed.


Specs and regs


Regulations state a disabled toilet must be no less than 2220mm long by 1500mm wide. The door needs to open 950mm outwards and be at least 900mm wide. Basins have to be placed so that hands can be washed while still seated on the toilet and grab rails must be installed at specific heights.


When designing standard toilet cubicles, an SME with 1-5 mixed-sex staff needs at least one toilet and one basin. For 6-25 staff this rises to two toilets and two basins; for


34 | WASHROOM HYGIENE


26-50 staff it’s three of each; for businesses with 51-75 staff, four of each are needed, while a business of 76-100 needs five of each.


For school washrooms, one toilet per 10 pupils is recommended for under-fives, while for those aged 11+, one washbasin per toilet is required. Regardless of age, special needs schools should have one toilet for every 20 pupils. Cubicle dimensions are relatively strict: with non- disabled cubicles, a minimum of 450mm-diameter space for movement is required, and the recommended overall dimensions are 850mm wide by 1500mm deep.


The findings imply that current regulations on washroom facilities don’t meet people’s expectations. At present, having ‘enough soap or other washing agents’ and offering ‘a means of drying hands’ is sufficient for a workplace toilet. The majority (61%) would much prefer to also have hands- free flushing; over a third (34%) want better hand dryers, while 22% would like bigger soap dispensers.


Furthermore, legislation entirely overlooks an area adults seem to feel strongly about: noise. People find going to the toilet embarrassing, particularly at work, if they can be heard outside their cubicle. A significant 32% say better soundproofing is needed. This induces such anxiety that nearly a fifth of respondents report having actually avoided using a toilet if they think it has a lack of soundproofing.


Increased privacy would be ensured if standard cubicles were designed more like disabled toilets. The user would have more space and no door-gap issues. However, larger cubicles must not mean fewer cubicles, and designers therefore need to give further consideration to the overall space allocated for toilets.


To download the full ‘Lifting the Lid on Washrooms’ report by Formica, visit the website below:


www.formica.com twitter.com/TomoCleaning


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