Efforts to promote good handwashing habits

We thank Ms Lee Wei Yin for her suggestions ("Why handwashing culture is going down the toilet"; last Tuesday).

We agree that public toilet operators play a key role in facilitating good handwashing habits.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) stipulates minimum design guidelines that public toilet operators have to comply with under the Code of Practice on Environment Health (COPEH) and reviews this periodically, with input from users and the industry.

Operators are required to provide soap dispensers, hand dryers and litter bins, and maintain them in good working order.

From June 2014, for all new building developments, soap dispensers are to be placed between every two basins to facilitate hand washing.

Apart from ensuring that soap dispensers are within easy reach from the basins, there is flexibility to decide on the placement. One way designers have done so is to place the dispensers under the mirrors.

We have found that several operators go beyond the stated minimum guidelines by providing dispensers for every basin. NEA will check on operators to ensure compliance with the COPEH and regulatory requirements.

In 2013, the Restroom Association (Singapore) (RAS) also worked with various stakeholders to publish A Guide To Better Public Toilet Design And Maintenance, which covers topics such as design, layout, ventilation, maintenance and user education.

The guidebook encourages operators and designers to go beyond minimum guidelines to provide a better user experience.

RAS also engages volunteers to conduct mystery toilet audits to ensure toilets are in working condition. More volunteers will enable us to expand the programme to cover more toilets islandwide. Members of the public are welcome to sign up at www.toilet.org.sg/join.html

To encourage Singaporeans to use water efficiently, PUB mandated the installation of self-closing delay action taps in toilets at all commercial and industrial premises and in the common areas of condominium developments in the early 1980s.

The flow rate is kept to within six litres per minute for a duration of not more than three seconds, to ensure sufficient water for effective hand washing while reducing water wastage.

Since 2003, PUB has also allowed the installation of auto-sensor taps with a longer duration at a lower flow rate of two litres per minute. Such sensor taps turn off water supply automatically when the user moves his hands away or when the pre-set timing is reached.

NEA, RAS and PUB welcome public feedback, and members of the public can call the NEA 24-hour Call Centre on 1800-2255-632, the RAS general hotline on 62979-824 or the PUB 24-hour Call Centre on 1800-2255-782.

Adeline Leong (Ms)

Director

Food and Environmental Hygiene Department

National Environment Agency

Emerson Hee

Executive Director

Restroom Association (Singapore)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2016, with the headline 'Efforts to promote good handwashing habits'. Print Edition | Subscribe