May/June 1998

At times it is most important that there be someplace to go -- and the time to go there!

It is very difficult for most of us to believe that being able to use the bathroom is a serious issue in the American workplace. According to Marc Linder, co-author of the book, "Void Where Prohibited: Rest Breaks and the Right to Urinate on Company Time" this is indeed true.

Marc Linder and Ingrid Nygard shared the writing and research for this book which reveled that at workplaces across the country "employees have been denied regular access to restroom, been forced to wear adult diapers because they could not use the bathroom, and had restroom doors locked to deny them use."

The issue has come to the attention of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, known as OSHA. The Administration plans to issue a clear explanation of its standards in the coming week that will clearly define employees rights to use the bathroom. They, of course, emphasize this issue and the fact that it impacts on employees health.

With regard to restricting bathroom breaks, Linder said "the most severe problems are in assembly line productions", such as poultry processing and auto industries. However, white collar firms are not without their share of bathroom problems. Linder maintains that in telemarketing, where employee's work in large, closely supervised groups bathroom breaks have emerged asa major issue.

Dr. Nygard, professor at the University of Iowa's College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, explained that employees can suffer a number of health conditions from not going to the bathroom regularly. The most common ailment is a urinary tract infection. Medical risks exist when employees drink less water to avoid having to use the bathroom. Medical side effects of this include dehydration, greater risk of kidney and bladder stones and constipation.

It is the 90's after all, and OSHA will ultimately issue an opinion on whether or not employees must be allowed to use the bathrooms -- just providing them is not enough!