New plumbing code amendment could expand gender-neutral bathroom access in Allegheny County | News | Pittsburgh

Transgender and non-binary people’s struggle for safe access to toilets in Allegheny County could see a victory on behalf of LGBTQ+ people and allies at an Allegheny County Health Council meeting, but one major hurdle could stand in the way: Plumbers without a license.

The Health Council will discuss a proposed amendment to Article XV of the Allegheny Health Department’s Rules and Guidelines at its virtual meeting on Wednesday, September 1, at 12:30 p.m. The change includes language that restricts access to single-use toilets for people of any gender, but the same amendment also addresses language that requires on-site installation work to be performed only by licensed plumbers, and it creates some uncertainty about the prospects for it. to approve the amendment.

“TThese two problems have nothing to do with each other, and it seems to me that combining access to toilets for all genders with the deprofessionalization of the plumbing trade creates an artificial contradiction between transgender people and skilled trade workers,” said Luca Salerno, who is transmale and opposed. to “The Health Council should not have tabled an amendment likely to artificially divide the community.”

Previously, if a company wanted to build a gender-neutral bathroom, it had to request a code waiver from Allegheny County. The issue is often seen as one that falls under the umbrella of LGBTQ+ rights, but implementing change requires an amendment to the plumbing code, which includes sections that regulate sanitation.

While it’s unclear why the Health Council linked these two changes, public comments submitted for discussion during the meeting are consistently divided based on the two issues. Those who supported the amendment typically commented on expanding single-use bathrooms, while those who opposed the amendment overwhelmingly commented on allowing unlicensed plumbers to perform construction work. Many of the latter stated that they were licensed plumbers themselves.

If passed, the amendment would require nightclubs, bars, taverns, dance halls, restaurants and buildings for similar purposes to include a single-use bathroom when a total of eight or more male and female water closets (toilets) are provided. The amendment adds that these single-use bathrooms can be identified for use by people of any gender.

For buildings in which the minimum number of sanitary facilities required exceeds the minimum number required under the International Plumbing Code, the amendment allows the additional facilities to be placed in single-use bathrooms and “identified as available for use by all persons regardless of their sex.” .”

The amendment also specifies that family or assisted-use toilets need not be labeled for exclusive use by any gender. It also adds an exception to the rule that segregated facilities for men and women should be provided when sanitation is required. Previously, the plumbing code only made exceptions for residential and sleeping units, constructions or tenant spaces with an occupancy of 15 or fewer people, and commercial buildings with an occupancy of 50 or fewer people.

The plumbing code requires a specific number of toilet and sink fixtures for different types of buildings. These numbers also depend on the number of people a building can accommodate and are broken down into male and female fixtures. If the amendment is passed, two family toilets or assisted-use toilets could also meet the requirements for toilet and sink attachments for buildings that require only one toilet for each gender.

The amendment also prohibits requiring toilet facilities to be labeled for the exclusive use of any gender, although urinals for similar purposes will still be mandatory in nightclubs, bars, taverns, dance halls, restaurants and buildings.

Whether the amendment is passed or not, there is more work to be done: There is no reason why all single-use toilets should not be open to people of all genders,” Salerno says. “There is no reason why a business should not be free to choose to install a multi-stall toilet for all genders if all stalls have floor-to-ceiling partitions.”

While the amendment would be a step forward for transgender and non-binary people in Allegheny County, and would make bathrooms more accessible for the disabled, the elderly, and those with young children, licensed plumbers are concerned about the quality of work the amendment would allow. if people are allowed to draw water without a plumber’s license.

Many commentators cite the five years of training it takes to become a licensed plumber, and are concerned about public health if people are allowed to carry out construction work without a permit. A note, signed by nearly 20 people, asks, “Would you hire someone who isn’t an electrician to install your electricity in your home? Why let someone who doesn’t know how to plumber do plumbing work?”

Those who wish to attend the meeting of the Council of Health can do so through the health department Facebook page. People can too submit comments through a form on the health department’s website.

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