Safety Features Protect Workers and Increase Productivity

Bad news often means good business for those in the liquid waste industry. Tornados, oils spills, and other disasters generally require a quick response—first from safety and rescue workers, but next in line are portable restroom operators, sewage pump trucks, and others who help support cleanup efforts or, as in the case of the Gulf oil spill, help perform the cleanup work themselves.
Companies that provide equipment to those in the liquid waste industry have expanded their offerings to include tools and equipment that offer safety features that not only protect workers but also help increase productivity. In some cases, the improved equipment is the result of government standards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has dictated some of the changes. Others have come from standards set by the military or other government agencies. Customers have requested other improvements as they try to do more work with fewer employees. Equipment has to be safe and secure to limit lost work hours in the field.
Toico Industries, one of the companies providing such equipment, specializes in restroom and truck parts for the liquid waste industry. The company was established in 1996, in Ogden, Utah, and later expanded to Atlanta to better serve East Coast customers.
The company’s Sales and Marketing Manager, J.R. Kidman, said one of the company’s best sellers is its fourteen-inch lined PVC Gauntlet glove. Hygiene is a big issue for those in the liquid waste industry because workers constantly are in contact with material that harbors disease. The PVC Gauntlet glove is a necessary piece of equipment for these workers.
“We offer a full line of gloves, hard hats, and Handi-Grabbers just for the liquid waste industry,” Kidman said.
The Handi-Grabbers come in thirty-six-inch, fifty-one-inch and ninety-six-inch lengths. In addition, Toico is offering a new design of twenty-four-inch trigger grip grabbers. The grabbers are ergonomically designed with a trigger action that grips and has a rotating head and rubber claws with magnetic tips, he explained. The trigger grip grabbers come in twenty-four-inch, thirty-two-inch, and thirty-six-inch options.
Bill Brown, President of Liquid Waste Industries, which also provides equipment, appreciates the irony of bad news being good business for companies like his. An example is the company’s high-rise lift sling assembly kits, which allow an operator to place a portable restroom on a roof or on a boat. In the case of the Gulf oil spill, the lifts are increasingly used to transfer portable restrooms onto barges in the Gulf.
“Ours is made of quarter-inch steel, and a lot of people are buying ours because it is the strongest in the industry, and OSHA has approved our kits because they are so strong,” Brown said. OSHA has especially rigid standards for items that will be lifted overhead. LWI’s lift can support 1,000 pounds.
The high-rise lift slings are nine feet tall and can be used for lifting units by crane. They fit all portable restrooms and can be broken down into four-and-a-half foot lengths for easy transport. “A lot of people are buying these right now,” Brown stated.
Brown said another product that his company sells that reflects a focus on safety is the T Lift Manhole cover, an item that unseats, lifts, and sets manholes. “I think that this is a really great invention,” Brown asserted. “It’s something that one person can use, and it is good because a manhole can weigh between 80 and 100 pounds. The T Lift can prevent inadvertent slips and save strain on muscles.”
One item that his Atlanta-area company will be promoting later this summer is a recently redesigned hose for liquid waste that has the cuff incorporated into the hose; other designs had the cuff attached or glued to the hose. This Plastiflex hose is especially useful for vacuum operations, which in the past have had such force that they occasionally dislodged the cuff from the hose, Brown explained.
“The cuffs at the end of the hose were glued on and sometimes, especially with vacuum trucks, the cuffs would come off. Plastiflex has integrated the cuff into the hose.” A cuff that dislodges from a tank is messy and potentially dangerous, Brown noted. “If a cuff comes off, you’ve got spillage and possibly hazardous materials that would spill all over. Whoever the guy is at the end of the hose—I would not want to be him.
“We sell to the largest companies and the smallest companies. There’s nothing worse than with a two-person, family operation, and the man is out pumping and the end of his hose comes off,” Brown said. The integrated cuff and hose is a huge improvement, according to Brown.
He continued to explain that Liquid Waste Industries sells everything from toilet paper to vacuum pumps, so what happens in the news can be directly reflected in the sales of some items. For example, last year when fears spread of an H1N1 flu epidemic, sales of hand sanitizer jumped at Brown’s company. The sanitizer was in demand at businesses and other places that were doing work for the military as well as at Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)-related jobs that required stringent sanitation.
Yet another company that provides equipment is T & T Tools in Spring Lake, Michigan. Jon Thompson and his wife, Sue, founders and co-owners, began selling tools about seventeen years ago, some of which Thompson developed and designed himself. Tools that are safe and durable have been an important part of T & T Tools’ success over the years. One example is the company’s Mighty Probe, which Thompson designed and patented. The probe is a durable, insulated metal soil probe that has been tested to 50,000 volts. Thompson has heard of several examples of workers who thought they were in a clear area for trenching, only to have the Mighty Probe discover high-voltage pipe that was not on any set of plans.
“I developed the Mighty Probe with insulated capabilities but there are others that do not protect workers from inadvertent power,” Thompson said. “I came out of the corporate world, and I saw the need [for safer equipment]. Safety has always been very prevalent in my world. If you build a tool, it’s so easy to build the safety function into it and still make it functional.”
Thompson has been selling the Mighty Probe for fifteen years, but he acknowledges that a lot of people in the field still have never heard of it. “One of the best advertising sources is word of mouth. When I prototyped it, I gave it to some guys in the field, and they wouldn’t give it back,” Thompson said.
Another product Thompson has designed through T & T Tools is his Top Popper, a high-quality manhole opener that comes with either an in-line handle or a rotated handle. “It can open manhole covers, grates or grids, or septic tank lids. It’s a diverse hook. We have taken it to a different level by making it using an alloy steel that is heat treated to make it stronger and more durable—and stronger makes it safer,” Thompson explained.
Still another example Thompson cited is a ball valve handle that helps take stress and strain off on the operator. Although the item was not developed by Thompson, he began making one after the original manufacturer no longer produced it.
“A lot of people don’t think about (safety or strength). They see one [product] that is $20 and another that is $24, and they go for the cheaper one. It’s like anything else; you get what you pay for.”
Thompson said workers in the liquid waste industry are no more vulnerable to injury than those in other fields such as agriculture or construction. Like other types of jobs, the tools can make a difference in safety and durability. Stronger is better. Simple design changes can limit wear and tear on machines and bodies.
“There are some things that are more important in the liquid waste industry—sanitation, for example.  The training, compliance, and equipment have improved. And with the price of pumper trucks, you just don’t put anyone on the equipment,” Thompson said.
“I think the people in the liquid waste industry are becoming more informed of the environment and of their work environment and their safety in that environment,” Thompson continued. “I think they are finding there is a significant difference in the safety and quality of their tools. “
With this increased focus on safety, companies such as Toico Industries, Liquid Waste Industries, T & T Tools and others will continue to expand upon those tools and services that can provide a safer working environment and greater productivity.

Story by Marie Elium

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