COVID-19’s Effect on the Portable Restroom Industry

COVID-19 has had a multitude of effects on every industry imaginable. While coronavirus impacted the live events and entertainment industries negatively at first, the sanitation industry experienced a huge increase in demand. At the pandemic’s start, many people were desperate for an ample supply of hand sanitizer, surface disinfectants, and toilet paper. Now as time has moved on, that demand has shifted to trucks, portable restrooms, handwash stations, and other manufactured goods. The strain on the sanitation industry hasn’t stopped.

As the coronavirus pandemic has continued to ebb and flow, so has its effect on the portable restroom industry. Regulations continue to be updated, events and worksites have high demand, and servicing time has increased. One thing is for sure, COVID-19’s effect on the Portable Restroom Industry is far-reaching.

New Cleanliness Guidelines

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has always had guidelines and standards regarding portable handwashing stations on job sites. Depending on how many people are on a worksite, OSHA requires a certain number of portable toilets and handwashing stations to protect against viruses

The current standards for portable restrooms on various worksites are as follows:

  • Anywhere non-sewered sanitation is needed: One unit per ten workers if serviced once a week.
  • Construction sites: One unit per 20 workers, which must be maintained in a sanitary condition.
  • Shipyards: One unit per 15 workers, preserved in a sanitary condition. 

As for handwashing stations, the OSHA standards are:

  • Anywhere non-sewered sanitation is needed: One mobile handwashing station per ten toilets.
  • Construction sites: Each individual portable restroom must be provided with hot and cold or tepid running water, hand soap or a similar cleansing product, and paper towels or a blow dryer. 
  • Shipyards: One unit at or adjacent to each toilet equipped as described above.

While OSHA did not officially change its regulations during COVID-19, it did release new recommendations. It is recommended for job sites and public events to provide more portable handwashing stations and restrooms than required, such as one restroom for every eight workers instead of every ten. 

Fortunately, Satellite Industries has plenty of handwash stations available to help ease this demand.

Additionally, OSHA recommends all portable restrooms be fully stocked with hand soaps and sanitizers at all times. Handwashing signs should also be placed in all portable toilets. 

You may have noticed the term “sanitary condition” used when describing OSHA’s standards for portable restrooms. OSHA technically has never defined that term. In 2006, OSHA suggested that to meet the required sanitary condition, toilets provided for 20 employees should be serviced twice a week, and toilets provided for ten employees should be serviced once per week.

Keeping COVID-19 in mind, portable sanitation companies should clean restrooms more than once per week to maintain sanitary conditions – especially on busy job sites and at large events. Since COVID-19 can live on surfaces for an extended period of time, it is essential to thoroughly disinfect portable restrooms at job sites and parks. 

Some states, counties, or individual labor groups support shutting down worksites if cleanliness standards in portable sanitation equipment are not met. 

 COVID-19's Effect on the Portable Restroom Industry means PROs have new rules to follow.

Effective Cleaning Products

For portable restrooms, there are certain federally approved disinfectant cleaning products that mobile sanitation industries provide. These products fight off germs and include:

  • Chlorine tablets
  • Urinal cleaners
  • All-purpose cleaners
  • Vacuum truck washes
  • Pressure wash disinfectants
  • Toilet washdowns

Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released “List N,” a list of disinfecting products that are expected to kill strains of COVID-19. Many products on this list have an active ingredient of quaternary ammonium, while others utilize hydrogen peroxide, sodium hypochlorite, or other disinfectants.  

One such product, used specifically for portable restrooms is ECO Blue – a very eco-friendly deodorizer that meets all regulatory standards for waste-water treatment facilities.

Higher Demand, Higher Costs

It’s clear that portable restroom cleaning protocols and guidelines are stricter in a COVID-19 world. However, the mobile restroom industry has been affected beyond stringent cleaning protocols. Since so many worksites, events, and public spaces are working hard to maintain clean and safe environments, the demand for sanitation products has exponentially increased. 

Even when live events were not permitted to take place, demands for sanitation products increased in other areas. As mentioned earlier, toilets on construction sites now need more persistent cleaning as frequent and accessible handwashing is the new standard everywhere. Many other places of business have added portable toilets to allow for social distancing and accessible sanitation. Some of these places include:

  • Gas stations
  • COVID-19 testing sites
  • Warehouses
  • Truck terminals
  • Public parks and walking trails

As coronavirus restrictions on live events lessen, the portable sanitation industry is also experiencing a demand to supply portable restrooms and handwashing stations for large outdoor events. Because of these combined demands, the mobile sanitation industry has experienced order delays and backups. Additionally, the price of many sanitation services and products has increased to accommodate the demand and lack of supply. 

There is a chain reaction with rising costs because the price of plastic resin used to make portable toilets has dramatically increased due to the pandemic and the 2021 winter storm that hit and damaged Texas. COVID-19’s effect on the portable restroom industry included suppliers and operators alike, and to a severe degree.

Increased Servicing Time

With COVID-19’s emphasis on cleanliness and sanitation, servicing time has increased for portable restroom suppliers. Since most establishments want their portable restrooms cleaned more than once per week to maintain sanitary conditions, this new responsibility falls on operators – and it isn’t easy.

First, sanitation equipment rental/service companies need to use a vacuum truck to remove wastewater in the portable restroom. Then, they need to clean and disinfect the portable bathroom with a pressure washer or scrub brush. Afterward, deodorizers and fragrance enhancers need to be added to the toilet. Finally, all necessary items must be fully restocked, including toilet paper, soap, paper towels, and hand sanitizer. This all sounds like a normal day on the job to an experienced operator, but there is nearly a doubled workload, due to new cleaning conditions.

When there is a demand for this process to be completed multiple times per week, or even multiple times per day for particularly large events, you can easily see how quickly the demand for labor increases. The portable sanitation industry has seen a shortage of truck drivers during the COVID-19 pandemic, which adds to the supply and demand obstacle. 

Moving the Portable Restroom Industry Forward

Without a doubt, COVID-19’s effect on the portable restroom industry has been life-changing. With cleanliness and sanitation at the forefront of public health, the sanitation industry has experienced an increased demand for products and labor. Due to environmental and societal factors, prices for products, services, and materials have increased, adding an additional layer to the supply and demand chain. 

Moving forward, portable restroom operators can expect to experience a similar demand. It is wise for these companies to be transparent with clients about delivery times and available products – the same goes for suppliers. Sanitation companies can also implement strict cleaning schedules and client reservation calendars to better prepare them to meet demands. 

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