Watch for Changes in Restroom Service Standards

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted efforts to define better portable sanitation cleaning protocols worldwide, and the PSAI will follow with its own guidance.

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The recent pandemic has brought many changes in portable sanitation around the world. Some things will likely revert to the pre-virus norm, and some will be altered forever. The Portable Sanitation Association International (PSAI) and other global industry leaders are working hard to ensure the tragedy of COVID-19 can be turned into a long-term win for portable sanitation users. Everywhere, discussions and work are occurring on new standards reflecting our collective efforts to minimize the transmission of diseases and to raise the bar for workers, eventgoers and the general public far into the future.

A wide array of stakeholders — based primarily in Europe — recently created new guidance related to tourism in the post-pandemic world. These parameters were released in May 2021, and they are recognized by the International Organization for Standardization as an ISO standard. 

Portable sanitation industry leaders in Europe made a significant, positive impact on this new global standard. Rather than allowing the codification of initially proposed language that would have placed portable restrooms at a significant disadvantage, their work ensures our industry will be able to contribute to positive public health in the years to come.


Portable restrooms are covered in two areas of the final version of ISO/PAS 5643:2021 Tourism and related services — Requirements and guidelines to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in the tourism industry, and both advance requirements for clean, readily available equipment for the public’s use.

Section 4.7 (e) Cleaning and Disinfection Requirements calls for the following standards: 

- A complete cleaning, disinfection and pumping of temporary toilets at the beginning of the day 

- Cleaning and disinfection of the equipment used for servicing toilets after use 

- Documentation of the daily cleanings and disinfections

Section 6.2 Common toilet facilities (including portable toilets), dressing rooms and lockers lists several requirements. These are the most notable:

- The need for enough space for social distancing

- Provision of paper towels or hand dryers, and trash receptacles that are “non-manually activated”

- Frequent refilling of consumables to prevent running out

- Good ventilation

- Daily cleaning and disinfection as a minimum

This section also recommends, but does not require, equipment operated by foot pumps.

The implications for the portable sanitation industry are tremendous. Documents from ISO, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or any other voluntary standard-setting organization do not have the force of law. They are not binding. However, they are usually the foundation for many subsequent laws and best practices. 

The ISO standard takes requirements for portable sanitation to a new level. Importantly, the ISO imprimatur confers considerable legitimacy to the contents. That means globally, people will take the minimums in the document seriously and work to implement them.


The PSAI is presently updating existing American National Standards that relate to portable sanitation. These documents cover minimum requirements for non-sewered sanitation in places of employment (Z4.3) and in other uses including events, public spaces and displaced persons camps (Z4.4). 

The PSAI Standards and Guidance Committee will review the new ISO document and consider whether it is appropriate to adopt — or adapt — the portable sanitation provisions for our documents. Conditions differ from country to country, so it is unlikely to be a “copy and paste” exercise. But expect the U.S. consensus group facilitated by the PSAI to take the ISO standard seriously and to discuss how these requirements would apply in the North American market.

It’s not too late to get involved. To be designated an ANSI standard, the public must be able to review and comment on the PSAI documents before they are finalized. People interested in a more active role in the process may apply to join the consensus body that votes on the updated standards. We invite everyone who is interested to get involved. Please contact me for more information about reviewing, commenting, or voting on the updated American standards.  


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