All companies have a duty of care to employees, which means doing everything within their power to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff.
Although this is a legal requirement, it's also common sense from a business perspective. Many companies have achieved better staff retention rates, increased engagement and greater productivity simply by making a commitment to the welfare of their employees.
However, for businesses that frequently employ mobile workforces, providing the welfare facilities required by their employees can often be challenging. People who work in shops or office buildings may take access to heating, toilets and running water for granted, but these facilities are not so easy to find on the side of the motorway or a remote building site.
This is why mess vans are so valuable for the thousands of companies carrying out jobs of this nature every day. These commercial vehicles - also known welfare vans - offer lighting and heating, facilities to prepare food and an area to sit down and eat meals. They also provide hot and cold running water and a private WC - all the basic essentials people need to work in comfort.
Putting employee welfare first
All employers should know they are legally required to ensure their staff have access to these facilities, but some firms are still failing to provide them. As recent events have shown, the consequences of doing this can be disastrous.
We already know that neglecting employee welfare is likely to result in unhappy and unproductive staff, but any company that is still tempted to cut corners should also be aware of the legal implications. Earlier this month, an Altrincham construction firm was prosecuted for allowing subcontractors to work on a refurbishment project in Preston without access to toilets or running water.
RNT Developments was handed a £5,000 fine and ordered to pay costs of £1,000 following an inspection by the Health and Safety Executive in February this year.
In his report, HSE inspector Stuart Kitchingman said workers were subjected to "Dickensian" and "archaic" conditions for a seven-week period while they restored the Grade 2 listed Harris Institute building.
Due to the lack of facilities, they were forced to clean themselves with paper towels and seek out toilets elsewhere in the city. Mr Kitchingman commented: "It's totally unacceptable. In fact, it's a legal requirement that workers aren't treated in this way.
"RNT should have made sure there were welfare facilities on the site before it allowed the refurbishment project to start."
Duty of care
The offending company was prosecuted as part of a national initiative that saw inspectors make unannounced visits to more than 2,300 construction sites in early 2013. The HSE is set to continue with these activities, so many more firms could find themselves in court if they fail to provide basic welfare facilities for their workers.
A court appearance, a hefty fine and a severely tarnished business reputation is certainly a high price to pay, particularly when a solution is readily available. Companies that are unsure of their responsibilities as an employer - for example, those that cannot easily answer the question 'what is duty of care?' - should make sure they fully understand all the regulations that apply to them before their next job. After that, they need to ensure all their vehicles and site arrangements are fit for purpose, and consider hiring mess vans if necessary.
We have a large range of welfare vans for hire at Enterprise Flex-E-Rent. Available to rent with or without a private WC, all our mess vans are new and suitable for use in many industries. Our customers use them to provide their employees with the working environment they deserve.