Give us a break: women horrified by Anglo toilet talk

Published: 29 Apr 2019

Women coal mineworkers have reacted angrily to being canvassed about the use of feminine hygiene and toileting products that would reduce their need to take bathroom breaks.

AngloAmerican has surveyed women at some of its central Queensland coal mines about their familiarity and use of ‘she-wees’, menstrual cups and absorbent underpants.

The questions were part of a survey about how inclusive mine site facilities are for women, distributed to women at mines including Dawson and Moura in March.

“Women mineworkers have told us they are disgusted that their employer would ask them about using she-wees and menstrual cups,” said CFMEU Mining and Energy Industry Safety inspector Jason Hill.

“How women manage their personal hygiene is none of the bosses’ business.

“Surveying workers about these products suggests there is interest from the employer about introducing them.

“Whether or not women use particular products should make no difference to employers providing clean accessible toilet facilities and breaks for workers to use them when they need to.”

Flagging the use of these product is particularly concerning in a work environment where mineworkers are regularly asked to ‘hold on’ and delay toilet breaks due to production imperatives, said Mr Hill.

“Mineworkers, whether male or female, should be able to stop what they are doing and use the toilet facilities in the crib room when they need to, with no questions asked.

“But after telling dispatch they need a short break, workers are frequently asked to delay going to the toilet and continue the work they are doing.

“It’s no wonder women are worried about the prospects of she-wees, menstrual cups and absorbent underwear being introduced. The implication is that they should never stop for a toilet break, but should pee in their pants or out the side of their truck.

“I can completely understand the anger and disgust of the women who received this survey. 

“It is a great thing that mining companies are employing more women. But mining companies shouldn’t be promoting themselves as great employers of women in glossy brochures, while denying them toilet breaks and their dignity. This is an important health and safety issue.”