Honk If Your Truck Is Pandemic Safe

Your service vehicles are rolling offices, often used by multiple technicians. Take these steps to ensure they remain a virus-free zone.

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Question: Our company has developed a safety protocol for service technicians and our office staff, thanks in part to several of the articles in Portable Restroom Operator magazine. We are now looking at our truck fleet. What suggestions do you have in terms of operating and maintaining as clean and safe of a fleet of vehicles as possible? 

Answer: Portable sanitation providers have done a tremendous job in instilling confidence in the public that not only are we an essential industry, but we are also clean and safety-conscious.

We have always referred to the route service truck as the workhorse of our industry and, as such, it deserves consideration for increased sanitary practices. Comparing good practices for truck cleanliness in 2019 BC (before coronavirus) with the need for personal health and safety now in 2020 is an effective way for PROs to enhance their practices and procedures.

That was then…

We owned our company, Pit Stop Sanitation Services, from 1995 until 2017. We adopted many of our truck cleaning, washing and stocking procedures from other PROs, whether through PRO magazine, the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport (WWETT) Show or participation in the Portable Sanitation Association International. Here is a short summary of common practices we followed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic:

Route service trucks were sprayed off at the end of each day and thoroughly washed on a weekly basis, unless the vehicles went through muddy or dusty terrains on a given day that necessitated a thorough washing.

Washing included completely spraying down the truck with soap and water.

The pump hoses were also sprayed with the same procedure of cleaning anytime they became muddy or extremely dirty.

Job boxes were cleaned out as needed by removing all items, cleaning the inside area and placing the equipment back in the box. Typically, the job box on the driver’s side was cleaned more frequently since it held toilet paper, which was constantly being emptied and then replenished. The job box on the passenger side would be completely emptied and cleaned once a month.

The inside of the cab was to be kept clean and free of any items on the floor. The floor of the cab was also sprayed with water on a weekly basis as part of the truck cleaning process.

Personal protective equipment in the truck for the driver included a hard hat, reflective vest, safety goggles, two pairs of rubber gloves (one for units and one for sinks) and a first-aid kit.

Safety equipment for the truck included a fire extinguisher, hazard triangles, safety and maintenance records for the vehicle, necessary inspection forms and corresponding markings on the exterior of the vehicle.

This is now…

To fulfill various emerging health and safety guidelines and recommendations as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, here are our suggestions on a point-by-point comparison of the former “standard procedures” listed above. These recommendations are based on conversations with other PROs, as well as an ongoing series of virtual PSAI roundtable discussions:

Trucks should be washed and cleaned daily. A bleach or other sanitizing agent should be used in the cleaning process. All pumping hoses, as well as water hoses, should be thoroughly sprayed with water and the cleaning solution.

Both job boxes should be cleaned. Again, the driver’s side box is the easiest to clean due to its constant use throughout the day. As for the passenger side job box, an easy and less time-consuming way to clean this storage of miscellaneous equipment is to place the items in small, clear plastic boxes that will fit on each shelf. The contents can still be easily identified, and removing these smaller boxes is a far less time-consuming method of emptying the job box for thorough cleaning. Since the route service technician spends most of the day in the vehicle cab, this area has taken on a heightened level of importance in terms of health and safety.

The cab should be free of as much debris as possible. Areas behind the seats should be as empty as possible. Every area in the truck cab needs to be accessible to sanitizing wipes to maintain cleanliness.

The floor of the truck should be sprayed with the water-and-bleach or cleaning-agent solution at the end of each day.

Not knowing who will be driving that truck next, it’s important to clean the inside of the windshield and windows. Breathing on these surfaces throughout the day makes these areas a greater risk for virus contamination.

Clean all PPE at the end of the day. Each route service technician should have personal PPE to maintain safety. Again, a small tote or container to store all this equipment ensures that all PPE is removed for daily cleaning. Should PPE items be left in the truck for use on a “community basis,” they should be thoroughly and meticulously cleaned at the end of each day.

New 2020 PPE such as hand sanitizing liquid and an increased number of masks and gloves should be inventoried so an adequate supply is always available. 

The route service truck also needs to serve as your company’s field office in terms of having health and safety information that can be shared with customers, as well as health inspectors at job sites or events. Health and safety are paramount, and the ability to share your company’s protocols can assist in this process and allow your company to maintain its image of professionalism and concern for public health. As we have suggested and referred to on many occasions, the idea of an information notebook is particularly important and can fulfill this objective.

Consider:

A short synopsis of your company’s safety procedures, perhaps including some of the suggestions listed above.

Memos the company has generated that deal directly with employee safety, whether in the field or office.

With an information notebook that contains other suggested items — insurance forms, copies of waste permits, spill-handling procedures, vehicle maintenance checklists and incident report forms — your company’s preparedness can help calm some of the anxiety that has become so evident in our world today. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Personal safety and hygiene have never been more important than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employee and customer safety are paramount objectives. Do not overlook your truck fleet in your overall safety program.  



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