In Springtime, Talk Among PROs Should Turn to Safety

It’s time to recognize an award-winning safety program in the portable sanitation industry and consider some safety basics for restroom operators.

In Springtime, Talk Among PROs Should Turn to Safety

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Safety is job No. 1 in the portable sanitation industry, or at least it should be. 

As restroom providers embark on another busy season, it’s important to remember that without a healthy crew, you won’t be able to answer the call to serve your important customers. Sure, revenue is needed to keep the engine of prosperity moving along for your company, but your workers provide the horsepower to drive that engine.

You should live by a simple credo when it comes to safety. Rustin Keller, the CEO of J.J. Keller — a leading supplier of safety and regulatory compliance solutions for companies large and small — put it in terms all small business owners understand. He said the goal of his company (and the goal of all portable sanitation companies) should be “ensuring employees make it home to their families every day.”

Especially in this industry dominated by small, tightknit companies, this standard is so true. Your employees are your friends. In many cases, their families are your extended family. So nothing is more important than ensuring they have the proper equipment and training to do their job safely.

In 2002, J.J. Keller instituted the SPOTY (Safety Professional of the Year) awards, given to leaders in American business who have gone above and beyond to stress safety in the workplace. And they recently chose a portable sanitation industry manager for this prestigious honor. 

In this issue you’ll get to read all about Jessica Flores and her efforts to build a successful safety program at Texas Outhouse/Luxury Event Trailers in Houston. Serving as safety manager since 2018, Flores has overseen dramatic improvement in driver safety at the company that employs 130 people and services 30,000 to 50,000 restrooms weekly. The company is featured in our PROfile story this month. 

SAFETY STRIDES

In announcing Flores as a SPOTY winner, J.J. Keller praised her for quickly ramping up a safety program that produced positive results.

“Beginning her career in the customer service industry and then logistics, Flores became intrigued by the safety element of how organizations operate and moved into safety management,” the Keller team of judges wrote. “Despite the challenge of having to master both OSHA and DOT safety knowledge, she accomplished a lot in a short time, expanding the framework for the Texas Outhouse program in only nine months, including an innovative safety training lab, and (the company) began seeing results almost immediately.”

Flores and Steve Rockey, the company’s general manager, detail the award-winning safety program in writer Ken Wysocky’s story. Though Texas Outhouse would be considered a larger company in the portable sanitation industry with 130 employees, they stressed that a similar emphasis on safety would undoubtedly benefit restroom companies of any size, even a mom-and-pop business with a few hundred units and a few trucks.

“Generally speaking, everyone faces the same problems. We all drive a lot of miles and do a lot of physical labor,” Rockey says. “There are people in this industry with just a one- or two-acre yard that I imagine can still benefit from a safety focus.”

“It only takes one bad accident to put a smaller company under. Smaller companies may not need to hire a full-time safety manager, but they can still find dedicated resources that can provide basic safety training,” adds Flores. 

You can turn inside and read all the good news about the Texas Outhouse. In short, they have reduced crashes involving the company’s trucks, helped keep rising insurance costs in check, and made overall improvements in the working conditions. All of this drives home the point made earlier by Rustin Keller: Safety programs help ensure employees return happy and healthy to their families at the end of the workday.

WHERE TO START?

I’ll just take a moment to reinforce the types of safety initiatives any portable restroom company can begin this spring as crews get ready for long days driving routes to construction sites and special events. Consider these five ideas to build a safer workplace for your team: 

Review personal protective equipment needs. 

Even after 16 years as editor of PRO, I still too often come across photos of technicians failing to use appropriate PPE on work sites. Every service truck must be stocked with protective gloves, eyewear and hard hats. Further, workers should be provided with high-visibility vests and other clothing when it makes sense. Perhaps company-issued work boots with toe-box protection should be provided. Make sure each truck has a first-aid kit and that each worker is dressed appropriately for the job. Decide on a suitable dress code based on safety needs before the summer heat arrives. 

Implement tailgate training sessions.

Begin with 15- to 30-minute weekly sessions with front-line workers covering best practices for a variety of issues, such as securing restrooms for transport, safe use of pressure washers, handling deodorizing chemicals, and morning and evening truck walk-around inspections. Brainstorm topics based on problems you’ve encountered with your crew, then write down an outline for each session listing points to emphasize. Cover trucks and other equipment commonly used, issues like ergonomics, safe lifting, and use of drugs and alcohol. Run through your listed sessions, then repeat occasionally to reinforce the messages.

See and be seen in your vacuum trucks.

Cameras, software driver safety “tattlers” and LED lighting are becoming more affordable all the time. Add backup cameras to each truck cab that show a view of the road and driver behavior. Backup cameras can help your drivers maneuver safely in tight work sites and spaces crowded with pedestrians. GPS software is available to track each asset along its route as well as unsafe driving behaviors. Use that data to help individual improve. Shed more light on nighttime work with spotlight cameras mounted off each corner of the vacuum tank. Add generous marker lighting on all four sides of the truck to improve visibility as your trucks go down the highway and when they have to stop in high-traffic service areas.  

Pull surprise spot-checks on your drivers.

Announce to your drivers that you may show up on their routes at any time for a spot check of how they follow general safety and your service protocols. Then at least occasionally intercept their routes and observe how they are doing for a few stops. Let them work and take notes on any necessary corrections. Unless they are working in unsafe conditions, don’t interrupt them, but meet them at the end of the day to review your notes. Don’t initially single out individual drivers for the spot checks but create a baseline for how all are handling service stops; then follow up with spot checks as needed or sporadically.

Spend some quality time on the OSHA website. 

The U.S. Department of Labor’s www.osha.gov website is a treasure trove of important rules and regulations that are updated frequently. You can learn a lot by navigating hundreds of pages of information directed at construction-related industries and safety issues as they involve small businesses. It’s easy and convenient to search for safety topics, compliance guidelines, recordkeeping and reporting, and explore government training resources that might help your crew stay safe. 

STAY SAFE OUT THERE

If you have other ideas for PROs to add to their safety programs, share your ideas with me at editor@promonthly.com. And please join me in congratulating Flores and Texas Outhouse/Luxury Event Trailers for winning the SPOTY award. It’s an honor and a noble pursuit to expend resources to protect front-line workers in the portable sanitation industry. 



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