Legislative Council: Tuesday, May 02, 2023


SafeWork SA

The Hon. I. PNEVMATIKOS (15:24): My question is to the Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector. Will the minister inform the council about SafeWork SA's work to improve access to toilet facilities for workers on construction sites?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:24): I thank the honourable member for her question and her lifelong interest in and commitment to industrial relations and the safety of people at work.

Access to adequate toilet facilities is a basic standard all workers should expect in their workplace. Unfortunately, this is not always the case for all workers in the construction industry. SafeWork have recently announced the publication of new guidance on toilet facilities at construction sites.

It covers a range of factors, including the sorts of toilets which should be available, clear signposting of toilet facilities, adequate supplies of consumable items, availability of sanitary bins for female workers and the number of toilets which should be available at both large and small worksites. Recognising that often construction sites have portable toilets installed, particular guidance about those facilities has also been included, both for installation and for maintenance and cleaning.

The new guidance complements the existing code of practice, entitled 'Managing the work environment and facilities', as well as the code of practice for construction work. As with many positive developments in the industrial relations portfolio, this work has been supported by the efforts of both unions and employer groups coming together to improve practices in the industry.

In preparing for the new guidelines SafeWork was guided by a great initiative from the CEPU in particular, the CFMEU, Master Builders SA and the Civil Contractors Federation. I would like to acknowledge particularly the advocacy of the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) on this issue.

In 2021 that union, through its national branch, published a report, 'Nowhere to go', in relation to this issue. The report shone a light on the lack of toilet facilities on many worksites across Australia and the particular issue of the lack of women's bathrooms in what is often a male-dominated industry.

SafeWork SA data shows that 42 per cent of the 765 complaints associated with toilets in the past decade were made in the construction industry. The CEPU's report found that workers were regularly being forced to use unhygienic bathrooms, bathrooms without sanitary bins and bathrooms a significant distance away from their worksite.

I had the opportunity to meet with members from the CEPU and the Master Builders Association last year, along with my colleague the Minister for Women, the Hon. Katrine Hildyard. We discussed the findings of the 'Nowhere to go' report and the campaign and the challenges faced by women working in the construction industry in relation to this issue.

Following these discussions, SafeWork SA placed the issue on the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities agenda to help build a nationally consistent approach to these issues. SafeWork SA has also been working collaboratively with the CEPU, other construction industry unions and industry groups to improve the availability of toilet facilities on worksites.

This may not be the most glamorous topic, but I am glad that government agencies, unions and industry are working hard to address real and practical issues facing construction industry workers, in particular women in the industry. I would like to congratulate all those involved in this work and look forward to seeing it come to fruition in the coming months.