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August 2017

THAT AWKWARD QUESTION: How to tell your male boss you need new feminine hygiene units

Written by Nathalie Leblond
Workplace Hygiene

Periods. 50% of the world gets them, yet menstruation remains one of those subjects; at best slightly awkward to discuss in the office, at worst, downright uncomfortable to bring up with your male boss. Let’s be honest, it’s unlikely that telling your boss you need new feminine hygiene units is going to be one of those conversations you just can’t wait to jump into. I can see you start to cringe already, just thinking about it.

Let’s start with some terminology:

Feminine hygiene unit or FHU is the industry terminology for the the sanitary waste bins that are positioned next to the toilet, in the cubicle of a female bathroom. They also get called sanibins (short for sanitary bins), she-bins (we don’t know the origin of this one) or just bins. Sanitary dressings generally refer to either tampons or sanitary towels (pads).

Why you might need new Feminine Hygiene units:

  1. Your bathrooms at work don’t have any to start with
  2. The ones you do have gross you out every time you have to touch them
  3. The ones you have smell terrible when you open them to dispose of anything

Any of the above are valid reasons for requesting new sanitary bins in your office bathrooms. After all, women need a discreet, hygienic and stress-free method of disposing of sanitary dressings when they are away from home.

When businesses fail to provide hygienic, dedicated feminine hygiene units for the disposal of sanitary waste, they put their female colleagues at risk of infection from a large number of blood borne pathogens such as HIV, hepatitis, syphilis and malaria. Not to mention the issue of malodour from sanitary bins that are not serviced regularly.

However compelling we women may find this argument for safe, hygienic and regularly serviced FHU’s, here are some of the objections we have heard from (mostly male) bosses over the years, and how you can respond:

Objections:
Surely ladies just flush them away?

Response:
You’re unlikely to be alone in thinking that, but a tampons are a major cause of plumbing hassles, as they cause blockages which usually require the services of a plumber to resolve. A large number of tampons in particular also find their way into the ocean and onto our beaches. It’s both an expensive plumbing problem and a pollution concern that we could prevent very simply by investing in a professional sanitary waste disposal service.

Objection:
We don’t have very many female staff; is it really an issue?

Response:
We may not be a big office, but if their are no adequate disposal solutions the only options female colleagues have are to flush their tampons or wrap their sanitary towels up and dispose of them in the paper disposer bin (putting cleaning colleagues at risk) or take them home to dispose of there.
I’m sure you wouldn’t want your wife or girlfriend to have to bring home her soiled sanitary towels in her handbag, would you?

Objection:
We have especially wide plumbing pipes:

Response
That may be true, but that’s not the problem. It’s when sanitary waste leaves our premises and goes into smaller pipes that the difficulty occurs, and we are responsible for any blockage there too. Are you aware that pads/tampons are classed as a ‘prohibited discharge’ into any sewer pipes?

Objection:
Why do we need a hygiene company to empty the bins? Can’t we just buy bins and have the cleaners empty them when they do their rounds?

Response:
No! That puts the cleaners – who have to empty and clean these waste bins – at risk of cross contamination and infection. Added to which where are the cleaners going to dispose of these dressings? It’s illegal to dump them into the general waste.

If all of these rational arguments fail to move your boss, there is the legal obligations of employers to safely dispose of feminine hygiene waste, as this is essential to ensure that businesses comply with the National Environmental Management: Waste Act, 59 of 2008.

Initial is a registered Waste Carrier and will provide a Certificate of disposal, providing customers with peace of mind that sanitary waste is disposed of in a safe, sensitive and environmentally friendly manner.

Initial’s feminine hygiene service is a proactive and multi-layered approach to the management of sanitary waste. Multiple levels of protection are used to provide an unparalleled level of hygiene protection for both customers and employees alike.

Need a feminine hygiene solution? Contact us for a customised solution.

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Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie is the Category Manager at Rentokil Initial, and has worked in the hygiene and pest control industry for 12 years. Although after 12 years cockroaches still have the power to terrify her, she has learnt countless ways to defeat germs both in the workplace and at home. She is a passionate advocate for Global Handwash Day and the health benefits that can be derived from regular handwashing and hygiene practices. When not contributing to the Initial blog, Nathalie is writing press releases for sister businesses, Rentokil and Ambius. You can find her on LinkedIn.

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