PSAI Turns 40

PSAICharles M. Schultz once said, “Remember, once you’re over the hill, you tend to pick up speed.”

As they celebrate turning 40, Portable Sanitation Association International is gaining momentum with their eye on raising public perception of the industry, expanding their global reach, member education and networking opportunities.

“People experienced a lot of challenges and grievances during Hurricane Katrina, but access to portable sanitation wasn’t one of them,” said Jeff Wigley, PSAI president. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, PSAI members in Louisiana had developed relationships with their state government. Because of that, those members were able to provide portable restrooms and showers for Louisiana’s citizens who suddenly found themselves without homes or running water.

PSAI feels these relationships are invaluable to the community when disaster strikes and encourages their members to reach out to their local governments. As a result, one of their board members, Diane Dakin from Rent-A-Loo in New Zealand, was able to help when the earthquakes hit Christ Church. These relationships not only help the community, but also help garner respect for the industry.

The association hosts board meetings mainly around the country. But to help expand their global reach, they host one meeting in a different country every other year. At last year’s fall convention in San Antonio, they formed a permanent international committee led by their first international president, James Elliot from Barbados. The committee includes members from Colombia, India, Nigeria and New Zealand. Initially, these members will translate PSAI applications and other materials into their respective languages. “Then they will begin focusing on localized issues around the globe that can be discussed on a smaller and more focused basis,” says Wigley.

Another way that they focus on public perception is through their certification program. PSAI’s 20-year-old Health and Safety Certification program is recognized by several states as part of their license continuing education criteria including Michigan, Wisconsin, Alabama, Illinois, New Hampshire and Minnesota. “We wanted to be able to set the standards and police ourselves rather than have someone who doesn’t know about sanitation police us,” says Wigley.

The certification is earned by passing a written test of technical skills and industry knowledge and verifying work experience as a portable sanitation worker. It serves as an impartial measure of a portable sanitation worker’s competence and understanding of the sanitary and health requirements that are mandatory in the industry. To qualify, you must have at least one year of experience, complete program classroom instruction and pass the exam. In addition to providing health and safety to the community, it raises public awareness and respect for the industry by ensuring that quality work is done.

Each year, PSAI hosts their Nuts & Bolts Conference. This year, the conference was held in Seattle on March 28-31. Next year, it will be held in Chicago. Wherever it is, the conference always focuses on education and includes roundtables on a variety of subjects so that members can meet each other and exchange best practices and ideas. “The only taboo topic is pricing,” says Wigley. “Roundtable topics have a broad range and cover topics that affect all aspects of owning a small business in this industry. The roundtables are a great way for our members to get free information from their peers.”

Even if you can’t make it to the Nuts & Bolts Show, PSAI offers members a variety of help on their member-only site. A member can find a cost analysis worksheet so that they can make sure that what they are charging is more than what their actual costs are. You can also find a cost of service workshop breakdown of expenses and worksheet for routes or special events as well as a chart that shows you the number of portable restroom units needed for special events based on the average size of the crowd and sample rental agreements.

The member only section of the site also gives you access to regulations and standards for ANSI, EPA, FEMA, OSHA and NAICS.

Not only is PSAI focused on educating their members, but they want to help educate their members’ children too. Each year, they award eight $3,000 scholarships at their fall convention.

PSAI also recognizes outstanding members of the industry with the Gump Award, a Service Tech of the Year Award and the Sani Award. “The owner, the technicians, and the office workers collaborate to make a business successful,” says Wigley. “So we wanted to make sure that each of those categories were represented with an award.” PSAI is currently taking nominations for these awards.

The Gump Award is a lifetime achievement award named after Andy Gump. “This is the Heisman Trophy of the portable sanitation industry,” says Wigley. “It recognizes people who have been either instrumental in founding our industry or made significant contributions to industry.”

The Service Tech of the Year award recognizes those in the industry that operate the vacuum trucks and do the day-to-day work that helps to make businesses successful.

The Sani Award recognizes those behind the scenes like the dispatchers and office managers who perform critical jobs and have over 10 years of service in the industry.

In addition to the awards, the November convention features a vendor exhibit hall where you can peruse service trucks, luxury restroom trailer units, portable restrooms and other booth displays. They also host speakers on relevant topics and roundtable discussions to build the collective knowledge base and network with others in the industry. This year’s convention will be held in San Diego.

The fall convention is the culminating event for PSAI’s 40th celebration. The event will highlight the historic journey of the portable sanitation industry, from it’s beginnings during WWII as heavy wooden contraptions to today’s high end restroom trailers. “If you were to blind fold someone and put them in one of those trailers, that person wouldn’t be able to tell that they were in a trailer. Our industry has definitely changed and had a dramatic change on our society in the last 40 years,” says Wigley.

For more information on PSAI, please visit them at www.psai.org.

Story by Jennifer Taylor

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