Group Works to Help Businesses Design Safer Bathrooms for COVID-19 Era

The American Restroom Association has always advocated for the best bathrooms to serve the public. Now, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the group is helping businesses address new safety challenges when it comes to their restrooms.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused concerns about sanitation in public spaces, and nowhere is that truer than in bathrooms, says the American Restroom Association.

“Conditions in American restrooms were not all that great even before COVID,” said Tim Pyle, ARA executive director. “Some of the things that were problems before COVID get magnified.”

Since then, there has been growing concern around ensuring public restrooms are safe given the way COVID-19 is spread. ARA is trying to help businesses do that. For example, the group has a section on its website devoted to restroom safety changes for COVID-19 and says organizations can look at long-term, mid-term, and short-term strategies to help with pandemic safety.

“For the long term, they’re going to have to make an investment in renovating or structure to the restrooms,” Pyle said. “We advocate for the all-gender private restroom where everything is enclosed, but that is not going to happen overnight, and people have to make investments.”

For businesses looking for shorter-term, less expensive fixes, he recommends updating fixtures like faucets and paper towel dispensers. “There are antimicrobial fixtures and a lot of options with the internet of things,” Pyle said. “Little devices that measure how many paper towels are left and how many people have been in and out. You can decide, once we have 30 people, we should clean it.”

For businesses on a very limited budget, Pyle had suggestions for updates that are extremely low or even no cost.  “Signage that says, ‘Please wear a mask,’ ‘Wash your hands, ‘or ‘Use sanitizer before you come in the restroom,’” he suggested.

Making changes for COVID-19 safety requires taking a different look at restrooms, rethinking design for function and safety.

“Previously, the way restrooms got designed was, ‘What are the code requirements? How many sinks? How many toilets do I have to put in? And that’s what I’m going to do,” Pyle said. “There is a real opportunity to bring value and customer satisfaction.”

Pyle said ARA’s broad membership—from architects to code specialists to organizations—allows the group to focus holistically on restrooms to provide the best practices for change.

“From the association standpoint, this is exactly what associations were created for,” Pyle said. “It is cross-cultural issues where people need to come together to highlight and advocate for change.”

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Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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