OSHA Renews Effort to Wipe Out Toilet Tissue Hazard on Construction Jobsites

By Anonymous

Washington, D.C. - The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued additional regulations dealing with toilet paper in porta-pottys on construction jobsites. These new rules are in addition to an earlier set of regulations dealing with this touchy subject.

The new regulations were detailed on pages 1050 through 4025 of the February 22 Federal Register. They cover items such as maximum diameter of the toilet paper roll, number of sheets contained on the roll, diameter of the tube and pull force required to tear off the sheets.

Beginning on April 1, 1994, OSHA inspectors armed with pull force meters will check toilet paper dispensers in porta-pottys throughout the country. Any toilet paper dispensers that require more than 0.12 ft/lb of force to operate will be shut down, and all activities on the construction site will be suspended until the problem is resolved. (Pull force must be stated in metric if the porta-potty is on a federal construction job.)

A malfunctioning toilet paper dispenser was blamed for a tragic accident last year at a construction site in Icy Falls, Idaho.

The porta-potty that a worker was occupying was placed too near a 20-foot-deep excavation. When the worker could not get the toilet paper dispenser to work, he stood up, placed one foot on the dispenser and both hands on the roll, and jerked backward. The dispenser at that point gave way, and the force of his backward fall toppled the porta-potty into the hole.

Although he was not seriously injured, the worker later sued for mental anguish. Named in the lawsuit were his employer, the manufacturer of the porta-potty, the toilet paper dispenser manufacturer, the manufacturer of the toilet paper, the importer of the bolts used to hold the dispenser to the wall, the owner of the construction project, the architects who designed the building, the pioneer family who first settled the land in 1881, the loggers who harvested the trees that the toilet paper was made from, and the janitorial supply company that furnished the paper. A judge awarded the plaintiff $4.5 million, although an appeals court later reduced the damages to $4.49 million.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration first issued rules on how toilet tissue must be placed in dispensers on April 1, 1998.

"OSHA is on a roll, and we hope to set a new American standard for the dispensing of toilet tissue in the workplace," said John Flushing, who was OSHA administrator at the time.

The rules were the result of a $4 million, year-long government study.

The issue was first brought to a "head" (so to speak) when a Minneapolis construction worker was injured in an industrial accident caused by a misplaced roll of toilet tissue in a porta-potty. The construction worker subsequently sued his employer for $1.2 million.