Workplace Facilities – McMahon Legal Guide (2023)

Food and Drink

An adequate supply of drinking water must be provided and maintained at suitable points, conveniently accessible for employees.

Suitable and adequate facilities for boiling water and taking meals must be provided and maintained. Taking a meal at any place which is likely to be a risk to health, safety and welfare, must be prohibited. Employees must have reasonable access to such other suitable and adequate facilities for taking meals, where this is the case.

The number and extent of required locations depend on the nature of the work and the number of persons employed. Employers must either provide suitable places for employees to eat and drink meals or have arrangements in place to allow employees access to other suitable facilities.

There must be a means of boiling water. The area should be maintained and kept clean. Sitting facilities should have support. The area should be adequately lighted and cleaned. Meals should not be taken in an area where there is a risk of contamination.

Rest Areas I

Where because of the activity carried out or the presence of more than a certain number of employees, the health, safety, welfare of employees so requires, employees must be provided with easily accessible restrooms or rest areas. The requirement does not apply where employees are employed in offices or similar workrooms, which afford relaxation during breaks.

Restrooms must be large enough, equipped with tables, easily cleaned surfaces and seats with backs adequate for the employees.

If workers must frequently leave their work area for short periods, for example, to reset equipment, there should be a suitable rest area provided where they may wait. If working hours are regularly and frequently interrupted and there is no restroom, other rooms must be provided in which employees can stay during such interruptions, wherever this is required for their safety, health or welfare.

Rest Areas II

Where the work involves an arduous physical activity or where the environment is hostile, involving exposure to dust fumes, noise, excessive heat or cold, restrooms should be provided. The underlying principle is that employees should not spend all their time at work in a potentially unhealthy or damaging environment.

Canteens or restaurants may be used as rest facilities, provided there is no obligation to purchase food or use them. Where workstations are dirty, contaminated, noisy or subject to disturbance, the restrooms should be provided away from the place of work. Employees who wear contaminated clothes should use a dedicated restroom rather than a general canteen, in order to avoid contamination.

Cleaning and Sanitary Facilities I

Adequate and suitable sanitary and washing facilities for employees must be provided and maintained. There must be an adequate number of lavatories and washbasins, with hot and cold running water in the vicinity of workstations, restrooms, changing rooms and shower rooms. The separate use of lavatories and washbasins for men and women must be provided when so required for reasons of proprietary.

Adequate and suitable showers must be provided if required by the nature of the work or for health reasons. Showers are necessary where workers are exposed to heavy physical work or harmful substances, which involve the risk of contamination. Where so required, separate shower rooms should be provided for men and women.

Shower rooms must be sufficiently large to permit each employee to wash without hindrance under satisfactory conditions of hygiene. Showers must be equipped with hot and cold running water. There must be easy access between shower rooms or washbasins, where they are separate from the changing rooms

The HSA guide recommends minimum numbers of toilets, water closets, wash basins, sanitary facilities, urinals and washbasins, depending on the number of persons at work. Sanitary facilities should be located on the same floor in the place of work or one floor above or below unless a passenger lift gives access.

Cleaning and Sanitary Facilities II

An extra WC should be provided per 25 persons above 100 persons. This number is 50, in the case of use by men only. The HSA guide states that there should be separate facilities for men and women, except where the facilities are in a room lockable from the inside and accommodating one person at a time. Toilets for staff should be in addition to toilets for others.

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Toilets / WCs should be capable of being locked and easily operated. They should be capable of being opened from outside, in the case of an emergency. WC compartments and urinals should not be visible from outside the toilet area. WC compartments should be supplied with toilet paper and hooks so that clothing does not have to be placed on the floor. Female toilet compartments should be supplied with a suitable sanitary disposal unit. If WC bowl fittings become loose, they should be secured to prevent them from falling over.

There should be adequate washing facilities including soap, clean towels, hot and cold water. Washing facilities should be conveniently located near to sanitary facilities. They should be large enough to facilitate washing of hands, face and arms. Washing facilities should be adequately lighted, maintained and cleaned.

Changing Rooms and Lockers I

Appropriate changing rooms must be provided for persons at work, who have to wear special clothes or for reasons of health or propriety, cannot be expected to change in another area. They must be easily accessible, of sufficient capacity and provided with seating.

Separate changing rooms or separate areas for separate use must be provided for men and women. Adequate provision for drying wet or damp clothes must be provided if circumstances require.

Where work clothes are likely to be contaminated by dangerous substances, atmospheric conditions or other conditions of the place of work, facilities shall be provided in changing rooms to enable working clothes to be kept in a separate place from personal clothes and effects.

Changing Rooms and Lockers II

If changing rooms are not required, the employer shall ensure that every person at work is provided with a place to store his or her own clothes and personal effects.When changing rooms are required, the HSA guide provides they should be reasonably accessible, be provided in conjunction with any shower or bathing accommodation, have easy communication with the clothing accommodation, have adequate seating and be conveniently situated for the use by employees using facilities for taking meals.

The HSA guide provides that changing rooms are to be sufficiently large and have facilities to enable each person to lock away his clothes during working hours.

In the case of offices and other industries, the HSA guide provides that satisfactory changing facilities may consist of separate pegs or hooks 31 centimetres apart for outer clothing such as coats in workrooms where there is no risk to health and safety. Some provision for personal effects must be made.

Where clothing or overalls become damp due to the nature of the work, provision must be made for changing as necessary. Separate cloakroom facilities must be provided for men and women except, where they are intended for use for one person only, with a- door capable of internal locking.

Changing Rooms and Lockers III

Where living accommodation is provided for employees, it must be safe and without risk to health. Unless used in exceptional cases only, it must have sufficient sanitary equipment, be equipped with beds, cupboards, tables, seats with backs, taking account of the number of persons. The equipment and facilities must be allocated where appropriate, having regard to the presence of both males and females.

Where employees are employed at outdoor workstations, they must be arranged so that employees are in so far as possible, protected against inclement weather conditions, are not exposed to harmful conditions such as gas, vapours and dust, are in compliance with statutory provisions and cannot slip and fall. These provisions apply to workstations which are linked to or associated with the premises. They may include, for example, external yards, plants, boiler houses, warehouses, et cetera.

Employers must ensure that pregnant postnatal and breastfeeding employees are able to lie down and rest in appropriate conditions. The facility should be situated near sanitary and washing facilities. Adequate space, light and heating are required.

First Aid

First aid is treatment for preserving life and minimising the consequences of injury where the services of a doctor or a nurse are required until those services can be obtained. It also includes minor injuries which do not need treatment by a doctor or a nurse, but which would otherwise receive no treatment. Employers must provide and maintain suitable marked and readily accessible first aid equipment. What is required will depend on the circumstances.

The HSA Guide (on the HSA website) lists particulars of recommended contents for first aid box and kits. In particular types of workplace contexts, specific first aid equipment is required. There are such requirements, for example, in mining, hospitals, those dealing with certain chemicals, meat factories, woodworking and factories.

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The HSA recommend automated external defibrillators to deal with sudden cardiac arrest. AEDs should be considered, but they are not mandatory.

The obligations in respect of first aid rooms do not apply to certain external work, including fishing, agriculture and transport

First Aiders

The HSA guidelines on first aid recommend training by an occupational first aid provider registered with the Occupational First Aid Assessment Agent. The agency organises and manages a register of occupational first aid training providers. There is a number of types of recommended occupational first aiders, whose training is specific to the nature of the business and the number of employees. In some circumstances, a minimum number must be employed. This depends on the number of employees and the types of risks involved.

The HSA ceased the operations of the Occupational First Aid Assessment Agent (OFAAA) on 31st October 2016. Since 1st November 2016, the HSA recognises both the QQI OFA Level 5 5N1207 and the PHECC FAR (first aid response) learner standards as meeting the needs of OFA training in workplaces.

Where the occupational first aider is absent, the employer may appoint another person to take charge. Employers must ensure that the details of first aid provision, including the names of first aiders, the location of the first aid room, details of equipment and facilities are included in the safety statement. Names, addresses and numbers of local emergency services are to be displayed.

First Aid Facilities

Employers must provide one or more first aid rooms in each place of work where the nature and scale of the business are such that accidents are likely. An occupational first aider should be responsible for the room and ensure that it is properly stocked, clean, tidy, and available for use. It should be large enough to accommodate requirements. An emergency telephone or other communication must be provided which should be clearly identified.

Certain minimum facilities are required in the first aid room / facility. They include running cold and hot water, drinking water, stores, first aid equipment, working top, soap, towels, refuse containers, couch, chairs, protective garments and a record book.

References and Sources

Irish Books

Safety, Health and Welfare and at Work Law in Ireland 2ndEd 2008 Byrne Ch 43

Safety & Health Acts Consolidated & Annotated 2013 Byrne

Health, Safety & Welfare Law in Ireland 2012 Kinsella Ch 4,6

Health & Safety: Law and practice 2007 Shannon

Health & Safety at Work 1998 Stranks Ch 6

Civil Liability for Industrial Accidents 1993 While

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The Health and Safety

Health and Safety Executive (UK)

UK Books

Tolleys Health and safety at work, 2017 29th ed Bamber,

Corporate liability: work related deaths and criminal prosecutions 3rd ed. Forlin

Health and safety at work: European and comparative perspective Ales.

Health and Safety Law 5thEd 2005 Stranks

Principles of Health and Safety at Work (8th ed) Holt, Allan St. John; Allen, Jim;

The Law of Health and Safety at Work 2014/15 (23rd ed) Moore, Rachel; Winter, Hazel;


Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No. 370 of 2016)

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No. 70 of 2016)

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Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No. 36 of 2016)

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (S.I. No. 445 of 2012)

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 (S.I. No. 176 of 2010)

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 732 of 2007)

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 299 of 2007)

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Workplace Facilities – McMahon Legal Guide (1)

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