Eby: B.C. will mandate flush toilets for construction sites

The announcement comes after years of urging by trade unions.

Construction workers on B.C. job sites will soon be getting upgraded bathrooms.

Premier David Eby announced his government will be bringing in a legal requirement for flush toilets on all construction sites with 25 workers or more.

The move comes after years of pressure from groups like the BC Building Trades.

“The ability to go to a clean bathroom with a flushing toilet is a basic requirement for a decent job site,” said Eby. “Thank you to the [BC Building Trades] for their advocacy on this issue. Current conditions are unacceptable and we will take action on that.”

I’ve been at a lot of jobs where the washrooms are so bad that you just have to hold it. Being forced to use porta-potties is degrading and dehumanizing.

Peter White, ironworker

The union group published its first report on job site bathroom sanitary conditions in 2021. It examined the existing approaches used by employers in providing washrooms to workers on B.C. construction sites, and the governing regulatory framework under the Workers Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (OHSR) together with the related guidelines.

Following the report, WorkSafeBC conducted a washroom facility inspection initiative. Additionally, WorkSafeBC has issued an updated guideline on construction site washroom facilities pertaining to maintenance. 

“Enough is enough. Nearly every other industry from film to events and tourism has found a way to bring clean, flushing toilet facilities to mobile sites,” said Brynn Bourke, BC Building Trades executive director, just days before the announcement. “Construction workers deserve flush toilets now.”

Job site bathrooms have been a major issue in other provinces as well. 

In 2015, Quebec passed an amendment to the Construction Code, addressing the requirement for flushed toilets for construction sites where there are or will be more that 25 workers. The Code also includes specifications covering the following: one toilet for every 30 workers, portable washrooms will only be used where flushed toilets cannot be connected to a water or sewer system, they must be within 500 feet of the worksite and have specific levels of maintenance, lighting, location, temperature, ventilation, supplies and general cleanliness.

Porta-potties make you feel like a second-class citizen. Office workers wouldn’t accept these kinds of conditions.

Matt Baron, electrician

According to the BC Building trades, in practice, contractors use toilet trailers or single units where connection to the sewer system is not possible. Both options allow users to activate a flushing system with a foot pedal. They also provide for hand washing stations in the unit and overhead lighting. Many include heating as well. 

In 2022, the Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario passed a resolution calling for a Canada-wide washroom improvement program. In response, the province embarked on a bathroom inspection blitz at more than 1,800 locations that uncovered 244 violations.

Ontario introduced the following requirements that went into effect this summer:

  • Doubling the number of washrooms on construction sites
  • At least one female-only bathroom
  • Adequate lighting stipulations
  • Hand sanitizer where there is no running water
  • Single toilets to be completely enclosed
  • Repair for urinals and facilities, including additional sinks


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