Don't Panic: Coronavirus and Your Portable Restroom Company

As the virus continues to spread and affect people's daily routines, here's a look at what it could all mean for your company's operations

Don't Panic: Coronavirus and Your Portable Restroom Company

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The coronavirus has the world’s attention. Public reactions seem to range from media coverage eye-rolling to mass toilet paper shortages.

One thing is for sure: Officials are taking the threat seriously. So seriously, in fact, that it is affecting the world’s economies. News reports, Reddit threads and Tweets are rife with stories of small businesses struggling with the fallout.

How worried do you need to be about the potential effects on your portable restroom operation? Only time will tell. It is still the early days, as health workers and governments everywhere work to contain the virus. 

But just because the coronavirus isn’t affecting you yet, that doesn’t mean you should completely ignore it. Keep yourself, your family, your employees and your business healthy with a little planning. Consider these important areas:

Supply Chain

Materials originating from Asia and Italy are getting harder to come by as quarantines ramp up. The words “limited availability" are in heavy use, and the aforementioned toilet paper shortages could affect your business. 

Level of Concern: Moderate.

I’m not panicking yet. How bad materials supply gets will depend on the length and extent of quarantines around the world. Right now it isn’t interrupting any supply chains critical to operations.

Risk Management Ideas:

1. Call your supply reps and talk to them about concerns they see on the horizon.

2. Be proactive about big projects where supply limits midstream could cause problems or where local quarantines demand your services at the expense of your regular accounts. 

3. Manage customers' expectations and warn them that delays are possible. Unless they have been living under a rock, they will understand.

4. Don’t wait until the last minute to restock disposable personal protective equipment items like gloves and Tyvek suits.

Workforce

When your technicians don’t come to work, business doesn’t get done.

This is an area where it is best not to take risks, though. Better to have one employee out than force the entire company to shut down and cause a community crisis.  

If an employee isn’t feeling well, let them stay home.

Level of Concern: Medium high.

At the time of this writing, our area is starting to see its first cases of the coronavirus. Suddenly, I am very aware of the risks our field workers face and the potential consequences if they become infected.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it isn’t even well understood how the virus is spread. That’s not super comforting when your job forces occasional contact with bodily fluids.

Risk Management Ideas:

1. Send symptomatic workers home immediately. If they have a fever, cough or are experiencing shortness of breath, encourage them to get tested.

2. Discourage workers from offering handshakes until the threat has passed.

3. Encourage the use of gloves, sanitizers and other PPE that offers protection from germs. Note that respirators won’t work unless they are the N95 filtering facepiece respirator variety.

4. Keep your distance. The CDC notes, “Most often, spread of respiratory viruses from person to person happens among close contacts (within 6 feet).”  

Demand

Restaurants and event venues are being hit hard as people stay home. Some workplaces are even encouraging employees to work from home. That might cause a shift in demand for your services, especially among coastal PROs providing sanitation services for quarantined individuals.

Level of Concern: Moderate.

Risk Management Ideas:

1. If people in your area are being quarantined, reach out to local authorities about the services your business provides. 

2. Don’t make public jokes about the virus, even if you think it is being overhyped. It’s bad public relations. Train employees to take customers' concerns seriously. People are dying of this virus, and you never know how it has touched someone else’s life.

3. This isn’t a bad time to promote “touch-free” upgrades to your restrooms. People are really worried about germs.

With our work, we are involved in protecting the health of the nation. In this case, I’m not sure there is much we can do as an industry. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do our part to protect ourselves, our businesses and the public.


About the Author

Anja Smith is managing partner for All Clear Plumbing in Greenville, South Carolina. She can be reached at anja@acpupstate.com.



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