It has long been an internationally recognized good sanitary practice to provide washing accommodations in cloakrooms separated from process areas in industries with dust hazards.
Throughout the twentieth century, published authorities have emphasized the need to segregate work place exposures from the home environment. By removing work clothes before meals and before leaving the factory, asbestos is not carried into lunchrooms or into the homes of workers. Industrial hygiene authorities have underlined the importance of wearing suitable clothing, which should be removed and replaced during working hours.
These authors also stressed the importance of employers providing their workers with rooms for changing clothing, which should include individual lockers and adequate washing facilities.
In 1924, American specialists in industrial medicine also advised that street clothes should not be worn at work and added that provisions for changing clothes and washing were needed in all dusty occupations:
It is desirable, in all dusty occupations, that the workmen should take off all their street clothing before beginning work, and this is absolutely essential when the work involves exposure to poisonous dust. For this purpose suitable dressing rooms, provided with lockers for street suits and separate compartments for overalls, are necessary. Facilities for washing and bathing, brushes, soap and individual towels should be furnished. In most of the civilized countries statutory provisions have been made for these sanitary requisites, in all establishments in which poisonous substances are manufactured or used and the result has been most beneficial.
See Kober, G.M. and E.r. Hayhurst, industrial Health, Philadelphia: P. Blackistons’s Son, 1924, p.24 as cited by Barry I. Castleman in the Fifth Edition of his authoritative work, Asbestos; Medical and Legal Aspects at p. 437-438.
In 1952, the United States Department of Labor issued safety and health standards concerning worker safety for all contractors performing contract work under the Walsh-Healy Act. Among the health requirements was the provision that:
Workers who handle or are exposed to harmful materials in such a manner that contact of work clothes with street clothes will communicate to the latter the harmful substances accumulated during working hours should be provided with facilities which will prevent this contact and also permit the free ventilation or drying of the work clothes while they are not in use. In any plant where it is necessary for both male and female employees to change clothes, separate dressing rooms should be provided.
Segregation of work clothing contaminated with industrial dusts and chemicals from the home environment was recommended by the government and industry because it had been known since the 1930s that introducing such substances into the home put the worker's family at risk for contracting disease.