Safety Is Job No. 1 With Your PROs on the Clock

Follow these recommendations for PPE to avoid careless mishaps in the yard and exposure to human waste in the field

Safety Is Job No. 1 With Your PROs on the Clock

Jeff and Terri Wigley are portable sanitation industry veterans, having owned and operated Atlanta-based Pit Stop Sanitation Services for 22 years. Send your questions for them or comments to  

June is National Safety Month as established by the National Safety Council. The National Safety Council is over 100 years old and is a wonderful resource for safety-related matters. In deference to this emphasis on safety, both of the questions this month revolve around this very important topic.

Question: I am unsure as to exactly what personal protective equipment we need on our trucks for our route service technicians. Can you please elaborate on this topic?

Answer: In any discussion about safety, PPE and safety data sheets are the primary topics of consideration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not mandate required PPE for our industry, but there is recommended equipment. The CDC’s list of recommendations includes:

• Goggles – for eye safety

• Waterproof gloves – for protection from exposure to human waste

• Protective face mask or shield – for eye protection

• Rubber boots – for protection from exposure to human waste.

Please keep in mind these are merely recommendations and based on the assumption of more contact with human waste than normally exists in our industry. We use closed pumping systems to evacuate the waste from units. That is, the vacuum pump evacuates the waste into an approved tank that contains the waste until it is unloaded at an approved wastewater treatment facility.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has general rules and regulations for workplace safety and two regulations that apply most directly to fieldworkers our industry:

• Eyewash protection and goggles per OSHA 1910.151(c)

• Proper foot protection per OSHA 1910.136(a).

The most comprehensive list of PPE standards has been developed by the Portable Sanitation Association International since the inception of their certification program, which began in 1992.

This list contains:

• Rubber gloves

• Safety goggles

• Eyewash protection kit

• Proper foot protection

• Hard hats

• Safety vests

• Any other required equipment as established for the portable sanitation customers’ job sites.

The PSAI also recommends as a best practice the inclusion of a personal first-aid kit on board each vehicle.

Please note there are various grades to all of the equipment listed above. For example, there are work-specific requirements for hard hats. Type 1 hard hats (protection from vertical falling objects only) and Type 2 hard hats (protection from lateral blows and objects) with further classifications as to Class G (General), Class E (Electrical) and Class C (Conductive).

A small first-aid kit and a personal eyewash kit are necessary for any immediate need while on route or in the field. While not directly related to safety, some PROs also include items such as mosquito repellent, insect repellent and sunscreen for driver use.

Also, be aware certain industries have additional PPE requirements. For example, in the mining industry, respirators and/or masks are required. If you have a customer in this industry, work with them and obtain the required equipment your route drivers will need to be compliant on these job sites.

One good safety recommendation has always been that when the route driver pulls onto a job site, they are subject to the safety requirements of that particular location. Be constantly aware of these requirements, and always have necessary safety equipment on board. 

Do your research, and once a comprehensive PPE list is created, make sure these items are always included on every vehicle. Several companies include these items as additions to pretrip and post-trip inspection reports to ensure the appropriate PPE safety equipment is always present.


 Question: We are aware of safety equipment for our route service and delivery vehicles; however, what types of safety equipment do we need in our yard and in our office?

Answer: Safety equipment in the yard is an extension of the PPE equipment on the trucks in the field:

• Yard personnel should have proper foot protection, goggles, safety gloves, safety vests and hard hats if needed.

• The yard should also have a more robust eyewash protection area and, if possible, a shower area in the event of larger splashes of waste.

• A more comprehensive and fully equipped first-aid kit is also highly recommended. A first-aid reference guide to be located with the first-aid kit is also advised.

• Consider safety cones or safety flagging tape to designate certain areas where greater care should be taken.

• Fire extinguishers are also suggested in areas where vehicles are parked and unit repair work takes place, especially if electrical equipment is used in this process.

Safety in the office must take into account the size of the office staff. Fire extinguishers are always needed. Work with a fire extinguisher company when possible. These companies provide recommendations for use and type of extinguishers and conduct annual inspections. Check with your insurance carrier as this may provide for discounts in coverage. Smoke detectors should also be considered as necessary equipment inside any building.

A first-aid kit in the office area is also a consideration. Depending on the size of the company, some PROs invest in mobile heart defibrillators as well.  

Safety is everyone’s responsibility and should be a constant topic of conversation. Monthly safety meetings are encouraged. Safety signs and warnings are critical. Require PPE be available and used on every vehicle. Check fire extinguishers and smoke alarms on a regular basis. Consider choosing a particular month as “safety month,” whether it is in conjunction with the National Safety Council Safety Month or a time of your choosing in order to reemphasize the importance of safety. 


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