2005 Winter/Spring Volume No. 5

How to Have an Accident-Free Workplace

Portable Sanitation is a pretty safe job, isn’t it? After all, what’s the worst that could happen? Actually, that’s the most important question any employer can ask. What is the worst that could happen?

If you have never had a serious accident at your business, you either have a very good safety program in place already, or, you’ve been lucky and haven’t had to give safety much thought. However, luck can run out and thinking about safety after an accident occurs is much too late.

Some of the problems our industry can face
Since many of you service the construction industry, it is also important to note that construction sites are among the most dangerous workplaces for fatal accidents. There were 1,166 deaths reported last year alone. Many of the dangers on a construction site may also endanger a sanitation driver depending on where and when a portable restroom is serviced. On highway construction, there is always the danger of cars or trucks leaving the roadway at high speeds. On high-rise construction sites there is the constant danger of falling debris, and on new home sites there are high-voltage lines, gas lines, open manholes and other exposed dangers.

What’s more, since drivers spend a good part of their time on the roadways driving vehicles that are top heavy and difficult to maneuver, a traffic fatality is always a possibility.

So, what’s the worst that could happen? The death of an employee.

Beyond the worst-case scenario, there are plenty of smaller risks employees in our industry take every day. Working on wet, slippery surfaces can make the chance for falling a serious potential health hazard. Carrying tanks, restroom units, and sinks can cause back injuries if not done properly. Because units are bulky, workers carrying them may have trouble seeing where they are going—a danger that could lead to stepping into a construction hole or in front of an oncoming vehicle. Concentrated cleaning fluids or deodorizers can endanger eyes if splashed or spilled. Winterizing tanks with methanol can become a fire or explosion hazard. And of course, if workers make any physical contact with untreated waste, hepatitis, E. coli infection, or other illnesses are possible. All these potential dangers are important reasons to take safety precautions seriously and to institute a safety program for all of your employees.

Employee perception and Management Commitment
Employees today have a much greater awareness of what is healthy and safe and what the various regulations require. Those who believe their surroundings are unsafe won’t be as productive as they could be, and job-related illnesses or accidents have a direct affect on a company’s bottom line.

Management decisions should always be made with safety in mind. For example, never give employees incentives for working too quickly. A smart lawyer could convince a jury that basing service driver pay on how many units were serviced in a day is tantamount to encouraging reckless speeding. A well-devised schedule that takes into account average traffic, distances, speed limits, and service time is vital to managing your service drivers’ workloads.

Considerations for implementing a Safety Program
A consistently enforced, well-implemented safety program may also protect your business from legal trouble if an employee does have an accident. Spot checks by managers should ensure reasonable safety regulations are followed. Be sure that:
• Wet spills in the yard or service buildings are cleaned immediately.
• Seatbelts are checked in service vehicles and are worn by all drivers and
• Drivers and salespeople have hard hats and wear them whenever entering a
hardhat construction zone.
• Rubber boots, rubber gloves and safety glasses are worn when cleaning and
servicing restrooms.

Perhaps the best way to train your staff is to leave it to the experts at the Portable Sanitation Association International (PSAI). For over a decade, the PSAI has been helping to educate the portable sanitation industry about safety. They offer training classes that lead to the certification of your employees as Health and Safety Certified Portable Sanitation workers. You can get more information by calling 800-822-3020 or by visiting their website at www.psai.org.

Remember, while you may think safety is common sense, sense is not quite as common as you might think.

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