Business Owners Can’t Forget Safety During Busy Season

The crew is in full busy-season mode, but that doesn’t mean they can cut corners and create a liability risk for your company.

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It’s June, and that means go time in the portable sanitation industry. Your crew is firing on all cylinders, delivering and picking up units over a wide territory. Drivers are running the longest routes of the year with the most restrooms to service each day. If your guys aren’t on a construction site crawling with workers and equipment, they’re fighting crowds at a weekend music festival or shoehorning the truck into a backyard for a wedding party.

You’re pushing to get everything done. The business was built on fulfilling commitments to your loyal customers and making the units clean and fresh at every stop. And that’s how it should be. Professional PROs take on as much work as they can handle, and then get the job done as efficiently as possible.

But while you’re starting every morning with a pep talk and a slap on the back to get your staff going, don’t forget to share an important message that stresses the well being of everyone on your team: Think safety first!


It might seem like some of the most basic safety tips don’t need repeating. Your guys know the dangers posed by contact with human waste and the perils of distracted driving with a heavy liquid load behind them, right? I’m sure they never cut corners to complete long list of service orders on their route. Guess again.

Faced with a huge summer workload, anyone can suffer a lapse in safe operating procedures on the job. I’ve seen it myself while running restroom routes to take photos for feature stories in PRO. And I know I’ve been guilty of neglecting to work safely in my own work. While I’m not behind the wheel of a vacuum truck, I’ve cut corners when it seems like there are more tasks to complete than there are hours in the day.

So I’ve assembled this quick tip sheet on portable sanitation safety. These are simple, commonsense reminders you can share with workers at morning tailgate meetings or post on the bulletin board to reinforce what you stress every day. If you have other ideas to add to the list, send them to me at, and I can share them in a blog post or in another safety story.

Wear gloves and goggles. Seems elementary, right? But for some PROs, this safety rule is abandoned when they can’t find a pair of gloves in the truck or they go a long time without a splashing incident involving waste or chemicals. First, make sure to keep trucks stocked with new work gloves and protective eyewear so there are no excuses to go without these critical safety tools. Then remind workers they’re not doing their job right without the proper personal barrier to bacteria and strong cleaning solutions.

Wash your hands frequently. Be ever mindful about what you’ve been touching while working a route. Harmful bacteria may be alive and well on the walls of dirty restrooms, the suction hose and hose reel, even the steering wheel of your truck if you’re not careful. Be smart when you stop for a lunch break or grab a Big Gulp at the convenience store. If you’re going to enjoy refreshments in the truck, you better make sure surfaces in the cab are clean and disinfected. And when you stop for a meal, actually stop, wash your hands before digging in and avoid contact with a dirty uniform.

Seat belts save lives. I know you’re in and out of the cab 30, 40 and maybe even 50 times a day, but that doesn’t mean you can “forget’’ to buckle yourself in between stops. Crashes can happen anytime, so just because you’re only going a few hundred yards down the road doesn’t mean you can forget the belt … and the law. Remember a minor traffic accident can become major medical issue if you’re thrown about – or worse, out of – the vehicle.

Put away the smartphone. I don’t care how many horrifying public service announcements bombard the airwaves; people still text and drive, and surf the Web and drive. This has to change. A full vacuum truck, more than most vehicles, is a weapon with an inattentive driver behind the wheel. Stress this message every day. And if you must communicate with drivers regularly, set up hands-free calling, if that’s allowed in your state. More than any safety issue, a fatal driver error is the likeliest to put your company out of business.

Keep your head on a swivel. Routine and seemingly mundane service calls to construction sites can lull a technician into safety complacency. You might go for years without an incident, and then suddenly a worker drops a tool from three stories up and it hits the ground nearby while you service a unit. The moment you pull into a job site be on the lookout for potential dangers, including cranes swinging materials into place, avoiding equipment operator blind spots and workers overhead. Make your presence known to the foreman – it can’t hurt to let the boss know you’ve made an appointed round.

Dress for the job site. You need additional safety gear if your route is dominated by construction locations. Pack a hardhat and a reflective vest and don’t leave the truck without them. And smart attire is especially important in busy areas with lots of equipment, sharp tools and workers focused on a variety of tasks. That means jeans, long-sleeved shirts and quality leather work boots, with steel toes for added protection. I’ve seen technicians wearing shorts, T-shirts and tennis shoes while working special events in 90-degree heat. It’s hard to argue that’s inappropriate. But construction sites are another matter entirely.

Remember the vehicle walk-around. Before a driver hops in the truck, he should give the rig a thorough safety inspection. Check the condition and inflation of the tires. Look for loose or damaged components, including the exhaust, mirrors and vacuum equipment. Check that onboard equipment such as the hose and wand or tools kept in the hose trays or other storage areas are secure and in no danger of flying off the rig. If you’re carrying restrooms on a fold-down carrier, make sure they are lashed adequately for the trip. Poke your head in the engine compartment and check fluid levels and the condition of hoses. A good check will guard against being broken down on the side of the highway, which is a huge safety risk on its own.


We devote a lot of time in the magazine to building revenues, business diversification and ensuring profitability. But is anything more important to stress than safety? We all want to go home to our families safe and sound at the end of the day. Remembering these tips will help ensure we continue to do so.


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