Amenity Downsides – “When an Employee Shower Becomes a Liability”

In today’s market it’s not uncommon to find companies incorporating athletic amenities and walking paths into their new facilities.   Additionally, they are offering exercise classes before and after work, as well as encouraging alternative means of transportation, such as walking or biking.   This, in many instances, introduces locker room facilities into the design and construction of men and/or women’s washrooms.  Great intentions for these types of benefits are causing many problems for the companies offering them.  As with any amenity (specifically showers), there needs to be employee rules or guidelines for appropriate use, as well as a plan for appropriate sanitation frequency and overall responsibilities for both the individual and the company.

The key to success and the formula for minimizing corporate headaches induced from these improvements begin with knowledgeable professionals.  The process starts with detailed programming.  This programming will include analyzing new amenities vs. replacing or upgrading existing amenities, and confirming that current operating practices, training and maintenance responsibilities are appropriate for the new facilities being designed and constructed.

Be aware that some issues can accidentally occur when times of operation span before and after shifts when the building is heavily occupied.  The level of security or supervision for any single individual can be compromised accessing or using the amenity.

Below is a great list of questions for professionals involved with programming responsibilities for any new or expanding amenities, which will help avoid future headaches or liabilities with shower facilities:

  1. Discuss early on whether showers are being provided as an amenity for employees.
  2. Identify the appropriate number of showers and locations to capture maximum benefits from positioning.  This discussion can have many implications with respect to the groups being served, the hours of operation, and overall building security protocols to and from the shower areas, especially before and after normal operating hours.
  3. Clarify the exact times of working and non-working hours the facilities will be available to employees.
  4. Discuss the internal and external routes employees may travel from their respective work areas, outside parking or athletic recreational area to/from the showers.
  5. Discuss whether clients, customers, vendors, friends, spouses or relatives will be permitted to use the facilities.
  6. If outside individuals are permitted to use facilities, make sure there are indemnification and operating rule agreements for them to sign and follow.
  7. Review all security into and out of the showering area with respect to locks, card access, and even camera or cell phone limitations in these private areas.
  8. Create, train and/or formally present proper behavior and operating rules and requirements for  the shower facilities.
  9. The proper behavior should include one individual at a time and removal of all soap, shampoo, and towels following use.
  10. If protection from unwanted or unintentional access to the shower while in use involves a privacy lock, procedures on how to access the shower in a medical emergency need to be implemented.
  11. If showers are not used frequently, sanitary drain traps need to incorporate automatic or manual priming to avoid unwanted sewer gas escaping from the floor drain.
  12. To minimize any fungus or bacterial growth, shower sandals should be encouraged.
  13. While it sounds obvious to most professionals, no urination is included with most guidelines and regulations.
  14. Attire to and from the shower can also lead to issues depending on the internal and external path involved.  Generally, appropriate athletic attire is required by most organizations.  Other than athletic attire, no abbreviated attire is permitted during business hours to and from the shower area except in the event of an emergency.  There are often designated changing areas adjacent to the shower areas to provide adequate privacy for drying and changing.
  15. Another recommended guideline or regulation is to not permit any food, beverages, or tobacco in the shower area.  Any food or beverage refuse can quickly result in undesirable insects, rodents, or bird infiltration.
  16. Most regulations also have restrictions from use by anyone with any open wound, sore, or rash.
  17. Many showers provide courtesy disinfectant spray bottles for use on the walls and floor before or after showering.
  18. Access into and out of the shower areas from outside athletic activities can introduce water, mud, snow and ice onto the floor and path to the shower area.  Discuss and establish rules and procedures minimizing messes left for others to clean up later.
  19. If showers are used for cleanup by employees engaged in dirty company processes and/or employees engaging in exercise or athletic activities, picking wall and floor finishes that are appropriate to minimize grease, dirt or ink staining are important decisions.  Some companies segregate showers depending on use, not just gender.  Messy or dirty company activities that use showers to remove grease, oil, hydraulic fluids, or ink from individuals may also require special capture of grease trap filtration prior to connecting to the domestic waste sanitary sewer system.
  20. Depending on the frequency and number of users, determine whether towels are offered and laundered by the company, or whether individuals are required to use their own towels.  Towels or wash clothes used in shower operations removing grease, oil, inks, as mentioned above, quickly become dirty and difficult to clean.
  21. Many companies also incorporate emergency call devices near shower areas to provide an additional level of protection to employees in the event of an emergency or unexpected confrontation.