How you maintain your units and other portable sanitation products when you’re not using them is just as important as how you care for your units when you’re using them.
Consider all the time your units aren’t in use, even during your busy season. During the slow season, unit downtime increases. They may sit for long periods in all sorts of weather, from blazing heat to extreme cold.
There are three times in particular when you should take steps to protect your portable toilets when they aren’t being used: 1.) When you store your units; 2.) When you transport your units; and 3.) When you handle units (loading and unloading). Also, an essential element in maintaining your inventory during downtime is security.
PROs have established basic practices to ensure that units have a long and profitable service life. Much of what you do during these times is common sense and becomes routine with experience. However, it’s helpful to occasionally take a step back to review your processes and how carefully you and your employees follow them.
By far, the best storage environment for your units and other products is indoors — in a warehouse, pole barn or industrial garage. It not only protects your inventory from the elements, you’ll enjoy greater security against theft, vandalism and damage. It’s also more comfortable to clean and repair units inside.
However, polyethylene portable toilets are manufactured tough to be resistant to the effects of cold, snow, heat, humidity, rain, wind and pollution. If your only alternative is to store them outside, they will be fine, especially if you take the proper steps to prepare them for downtime.
During your busy season, you will most often be storing units that are returning from special events. They tend to be stored until the following weekend. (Units at construction sites are there long-term, as are units rented for agricultural job sites during planting and harvesting seasons.) Special event units are usually the nicer-looking or newer units that you have, so a little TLC will keep them at their best and ready for the next event.
During your busy season, prepare all units for storage with the following maintenance steps:
If you are storing units outside, take additional steps:
During your slow season, especially in colder climates, long-term storage requires additional precautions:
Use downtime to quality-check your inventory:
Sinks and hand wash stations, once emptied, washed and cleaned, can be stored outdoors if indoor storage is unavailable. Some models can be placed inside units for storage and transportation.
When storing sinks for long periods in cold weather, add antifreeze to the tanks to keep the tanks and lines from freezing and breaking. Push the foot pump until antifreeze comes out from the faucet.
Holding tanks can also be stored outside with no other maintenance besides emptying.
Whether you’re storing your inventory inside or outdoors, you can have all of your precautions undone by neglecting basic security. Security measures are your 24/7 eyes and ears to prevent theft and vandalism. Security can also help guard against fire and flooding, allow you to track who enters your facilities, and with interactive services, you can monitor your security system from your smartphone, watch live video remotely and receive notifications of problems. Insurance companies may offer discounts to businesses that have security systems in place.
The main components of your security system may include:
You can shop around to find a firm that offers total security systems for commercial property that will closely match your needs and budget. You can go local and contact your Chamber of Commerce for suggestions. You can also research security systems and security companies online and through social media.
Your units are on the road a lot. They are in transit from your home base to event or worksite and back again hundreds of times throughout the year. With every trip, an unsecured or poorly secured portable toilet is a nightmare scenario waiting to happen!
The bulkiness of units makes them unwieldy, and their lightweight, flexible construction can actually make transport more difficult. Safety should always be your first priority. The second important consideration is efficiency. It requires time and money to move your units, so you want to be as efficient as possible.
You can convey your units with confidence by following correct methods and using the right equipment to secure your load.
The most important skill to master is properly strapping down the unit. Portable toilets can change shape during transit (due to the flexible plastic) which can cause slack in your straps or even unhook the straps. To counter this problem, some inexperienced drivers may over-strap the units. Over-strapping can damage the exterior, creasing or even cracking your units.
PROs have generally found that using ratchet straps offers the most effective control compared to other methods such as ropes and tie-down straps. First, turn the units so the doors are facing the back of the truck to prevent scratching and to keep bugs from sticking to the front. With the unit in place, use one ratchet strap in the middle and one at the bottom, just over the skid, to secure the unit. Some operators use steel carabiners instead of hooks. When the toilets flex, the carabiners won’t come undone. With your units secured, you can safely drive the speed limit on any road.
Always follow the truck or trailer manufacturer’s recommendations on securing your load.
The trucks and trailers themselves are designed specifically for the portable sanitation industry to make securing and transporting your units as safe and efficient as possible. Trailers feature low bed height and alternatives to tie-downs and straps, including carrier slats, built-in locking systems and clamps. Trucks and trailers come in different configurations:
A standard portable toilet weights around 150 pounds, while a luxury unit can weigh upwards of 500 pounds. Nevertheless, when you follow the proper techniques, loading and unloading units can be a fairly easy job. That’s important when you consider how many times in a work week you load and unload units.
Poor technique, skipping steps in the process or rushing can result in downtime and decreased profits. You risk wasting time, you might damage your equipment or other property, and you or your drivers can get hurt.
In this instance, we are reviewing how to load and unload units to and from a truck in which the bed is raised. Trailers made for portable toilets can be lowered basically to ground level.
As your company grows and you hire drivers, make sure they, too, are trained in proper loading and unloading techniques. Don’t put them on a route until they can walk through the process without missing a step every single time.
The unloading process from truck to ground is different from loading. You’re not just reversing the steps.
Be particularly careful and attentive when unloading at an event. Crowds are your most important safety concern. Prepare to encounter tight spaces, tight timeframes and terrain that isn’t dolly-friendly. Arrive early, get as close as possible to your designated site (to avoid pushing units on their bottoms), and take it slow!
If a unit starts to fall while you’re loading it, what should you do? Your first instinct is probably to try and stop it. Bad move! That’s a good way to hurt your shoulder or back (two of the most common workplace injuries). Just let it drop!
A toppling unit is just one of the many ways you or your drivers can suffer a workplace injury. Other common causes are overexertion, falling, improper lifting, reaching or gripping and repetitive use.
Portable restroom operators can combat workplace accidents by cultivating a culture of safety. Incorporate safety programs, offer safety incentives and provide annual refresher courses and literature on safe loading and unloading methods.
The portable sanitation industry offers a wide range of labor-saving equipment that you can use to increase your efficiency, make work less strenuous and limit the potential for on-the-job injuries.
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