Ask Angela: How can we prepare a construction site for summer storms?

Angela Phillips has been with ZTERS for nearly a decade and answers your questions here on the website. Have a question? Reach out through our Facebook page or DM us on Instagram or Twitter.

Dear Angela, it seems like summer storms catch us by surprise each year and we lose time and money from materials being damaged or flooding and water damage to the site. Is there anything we can do to prep the site in advance?

Thanks for your question. Every year we help people recovering from summer storms, whether it’s extra dumpsters and porta potties or storage containers and temporary office trailers. There are a few things you can do to prep your site in early summer to help mitigate damage from extreme weather. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Secure your materials. We know lumber and material costs have been out of control for the last year, so you may already be storing all your supplies in locked storage containers. If you’re not, invest in enough storage to house all your tools and supplies. Containers aren’t completely weatherproof, but they do go a long way toward keeping your materials and tools safe and dry during the hot, wet summer months.
  • Properly install dumpsters and storage containers. On a related note, make sure you’ve installed your dumpsters and containers on concrete, gravel, a plywood base, or some kind of level, hard surface. We’ve seen too many examples of people placing dumpsters and containers on bare, dry ground only to have them sink inches or feet into mud after a hard rain. Good luck getting a full storage container out of the mud. You’ll be waiting weeks — and paying rental fees that whole time — waiting for the ground to dry out enough to move the dumpster or container.
  • Keep the area clean. Strong winds can turn anything into a projectile, and a construction site is full of potential dangers. Make sure crews are keeping the site clean and do a “storm check” at the end of every day. Even small items can be picked up by a gust of wind and cause damage or harm in a strong storm. Pack everything away in storage containers or in trucks at the end of each day.
  • Make a plan for flooding. It’s pretty much inevitable there’s going to be at least one storm per summer that causes flooding. Have a plan and communicate it to everyone on your team. This might include always having sandbags on hand, having extra plywood for boarding up windows, having a water pump on site, and making sure you have a written plan for checking on crew members after a storm. Part of your plan should be assigning post-storm responsibilities, including someone who can check on the jobsite as soon as it’s safe, and a first-response crew to handle debris removal and water pump operation, if needed.

Most importantly, stay on top of the weather. You mentioned storms have caught you by surprise in the past, and that’s not uncommon. Set up weather alerts on your phone or tablet and keep an eye out for potential flooding dangers. With some prep work and planning, you can help your crew and your site recover from summer storms.

When summer weather hits, you can always call your ZTERS account manager to help source additional dumpsters, toilets, and other services when you need them. We’ll do our best to get you back up and running when the danger has passed. 

Ask Angela: Do we really need temporary fencing?

Dear Angela, we’re on the fence (ha-ha) about renting temporary fencing for our job site. It seems like a big expense compared to whatever fines we might get from our city and county. Why does fencing seem so expensive, and what goes into temporary fencing rates?

Hey there. Thanks for asking this question, because it’s something we hear a lot. Especially with construction costs so high lately. The fact is, even though we don’t recommend this, a lot of crews think they’ll save money by taking their chances and not securing their site with fencing. There are a couple of reasons we think this is a big mistake. Not least of which is it can be a safety hazard to have an open site. So, here are the factors that go into fencing prices, and why we recommend you always fence your construction site.

First, let’s talk about pricing. One place a lot of people go wrong is not knowing how many linear feet you actually need. We developed a temporary fencing calculator to help you figure out exactly how much you’ll need, so you’re not overpaying for too much fencing. Remember to factor in any vehicle or personnel gates (our calculator helps you do that).

The price of fencing includes things most people don’t consider, such as materials and labor. Don’t underestimate the amount of time and labor it’ll take to install a temporary fence. In some areas fence installation is regulated and must be performed by union workers. And if you have a large worksite, you may be dealing with grade changes, poor soil, areas that flood, and other circumstances that add to the installation cost. If your site requires post-driven fencing, trenching, or erosion control measures, that’s going to cost more than a simple panel installation. (Check out our post on the types of temporary fencing to learn more.)

For materials, this includes the cost of things like erosion control and screening. This is going to vary by site but expect to have at least some materials costs added to the final bill. Also keep in mind there may be costs associated with installing post fencing in asphalt or concrete and the repair of those materials when the fencing is removed. Don’t skimp on accessories like safety caps on erosion control installations. Installing safety caps can help prevent injuries if someone trips and falls onto the rebar used in these fencing installations.

This might seem like a big expense, but safety is worth the price tag. This is the other main reason you need temporary fencing: safety. Imagine if teenagers decide to check out your job site after hours and someone falls or gets seriously injured. This is unfortunate for the injured person, and it’s also a liability for the company. Anyone wandering onto your worksite creates the possibility for injury. Why take that chance?

There’s also crew safety. You can use fencing to block off dangerous areas, such as trenches or live electrical areas. Fencing off hazardous areas keeps your crew safe. Lack of fall protection measures are among OSHA’s most cited violations every year and falling on construction sites are one of the top causes of workplace injuries. Temporary fencing keeps unauthorized crew away from hazards and helps keep crew members safe.   

A second reason to install fencing is theft prevention. When the cost of building materials goes up, so does the number of worksite thefts. Even if you have materials stored in locked storage containers, temporary fencing adds an extra layer of protection from theft.

We know there are people out there who think it’s “safe” to skip the expense of temporary fencing, but all it takes is one crew member’s fall, one unauthorized person getting hurt, or one major theft to wipe out any “savings” you may think you’re getting. Not to mention the human factor of injuries. We can help you get the protection you need, plus any additional security measures, including barbed wire, to keep your site secure.

Ask Angela: Can you put a dumpster over a septic tank?

Angela Phillips is a Senior Account Manager III at ZTERS. She helps customers with some of their most challenging site service issues, and she answers your questions here on our website.

Dear Angela, we’ve got limited space on our worksite. Can we put a dumpster over a septic tank?

Hey, there. I’m really glad you asked this question because we’ve had a few customers over the years who have discovered there’s a very costly answer. Basically, no, we don’t advise it. And I’m going to tell you why.

First of all, any time you’re doing work near a septic tank you need to be very careful what you place on or near the tank. They aren’t built to withstand the weight of a dumpster, or even a storage container. You shouldn’t even park on them, to be honest.

If your site has a septic tank, make sure it’s clearly marked so your crew doesn’t accidentally park or drive heavy equipment over it. In fact, it’s a good idea to put up some temporary fencing or orange safety fencing just to make sure everyone knows it’s there.

Second, make sure you order an extra porta potty or two depending on the size of your crew. Most septic tanks are built for families – we’re talking five or six people max – so it’s almost guaranteed you’ll have issues if you’ve got a whole crew trying to use bathrooms hooked to that septic tank.

We’ve had customers who didn’t take this advice and ended up with a backed-up tank that needed an emergency pump-out or complete clean-out. Both of those options take time and will leave your site without facilities. Our advice is play it safe and get a porta potty for the crew.

Finally, let’s address your underlying question. It sounds like you don’t have a lot of space at your worksite. You may have space for a smaller dumpster that can be serviced more frequently, or we might be able to place the dumpster in a driveway or on the street (if your municipality allows that). Visit our dumpster sizing page to see the different sizes available or give us a call and we can help you find the right solution.

As always, thanks for asking your question! Our goal is to help you avoid costly errors whenever possible. We’re always here to help, so reach out through the comments section of our social media accounts if you have a question for us!

Ask Angela: What should we do if there’s a dumpster fire?

Angela Phillips is a Senior Account Manager III at ZTERS. She helps customers with some of their most challenging site service issues, and she answers your questions here on our website.

Angela, this question isn’t meant to be funny, but what if we have a dumpster fire?

Thanks for asking this question – dumpster fires can and do happen. We had a customer not too long ago who had a major fire in a dumpster. Luckily, no one was hurt. But dumpster fires can be deadly, and they can definitely cause a lot of damage. In fact, Fire Engineering Magazine reported on a dumpster fire that caused an explosion at a manufacturing plant. Several firefighters were injured, and unfortunately one person died of their injuries.

To start, let’s talk about dumpster safety. Here are some basic tips for reducing dumpster fire hazard risks:

  • Never dispose of hazardous or flammable materials in a dumpster. There are better, more secure ways to dispose of these items, and we’re working on a guide for that. In the meantime, here are some items you shouldn’t throw in dumpsters.
  • Keep the area clear around the dumpster. If a fire starts outside the dumpster, you don’t want nearby materials igniting and spreading into the dumpster.
  • Post no smoking signs near the dumpster and make sure any employees or building tenants know not to throw lit cigarette butts in or near the dumpster. It only takes one carelessly tossed cigarette to start a fire.

If you do have a dumpster fire, don’t try to extinguish it yourself – call 911. If your dumpster has a hinged lid and you’re able to safely close it, go ahead and close it to help prevent the fire from spreading. Don’t endanger yourself or others, though.  

If the lid is already closed, but you know a fire is burning inside, do not open the lid! Leave it closed and wait for firefighters. Opening the lid could create a backdraft, which would be far more dangerous.

Dumpster fires almost always destroy the dumpster – the lid may melt off if it’s plastic, and any paint or decals will likely be destroyed. The dumpster itself may warp. If any of these things happen, and it’s a rental, contact the rental company after the fire is safely extinguished.

Safety is the first priority during a dumpster fire. After that, there will more than likely be a fire investigation and depending on the circumstances, you may end up owing damages.

The best advice – and this is true for all aspects of life – is to avoid dumpster fires to begin with.

Have you ever had a dumpster fire, or do you have tips for preventing them? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts. 

Ask Angela: How does ZTERS decide which waste haulers to use?

Angela Phillips is a Senior Account Manager III at ZTERS. She helps customers with some of their most challenging site service issues, and she answers your questions here on our website.

This is a great question because it’s one people are often curious about. You might already know, ZTERS is essentially a waste broker, which means we work with haulers all over the country to schedule the right services for our construction and event customers. Our network of local haulers is pretty extensive, especially because we’ve been doing this for more than a decade.

One thing we like to mention is what sets us apart in the industry. We’re a family-run company and we work personally with a lot of local, small businesses as well as major regional and nationwide haulers. We develop relationships with all kinds of businesses to make sure they’re top-quality servicers. In fact, we even have a team dedicated to our hauler relationships. We want everyone to be successful and have a positive experience.

Having said that, there is a method to the madness. We’ve developed a proprietary ranking system over the years that measures things like reliability, service quality, and pricing. Being the cheapest is not always the best, especially if reliability is a problem! We strive to make sure all our customers get the best service possible, so we work with waste haulers who provide consistently reliable deliveries and maintenance. And we’ve gotten to know many of our haulers as friends!

Ultimately, our goal is to make sure everyone wins – from great service to ongoing business relationships. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

As we’ve grown over the years, so has our network. We’re coming up on almost 15,000 vendors in our hauler network, and that number continues to grow. Being in business this long, and with this size of a network, we know where to go when a challenging request comes in. We know who to call when there’s a storm-related shortage, or when a last-minute delivery request comes in, or even when a customer needs service in a remote area.

I hope that answers your question! The bottom line is we look at many factors, and we’ve developed a data-based system, to find the most reliable waste haulers nationwide. If you have other questions, or if you want to know “how the sausage is made,” drop us a line through social media or email. Thanks for your question!

Ask Angela: Pumpkin patches in a COVID-19 world

Angela Phillips is a Senior Account Manager III at ZTERS Site Solutions. She helps customers with some of their most challenging site service issues, and she answers your questions here on our website.

Dear Angela, Pumpkin patches and haunted houses are allowed in our area. We usually host a pumpkin patch in our building’s parking lot, and we want to have one again this year. How should we plan for things to be different in light of COVID-19?

Hey, there. This is a great question for fall. Even in a “regular” year we see a huge increase in demand for portable toilets and hand sanitizer dispensers for fall festivals, pumpkin patches, and haunted houses. There will be fewer festivals this year, but we’re still seeing demand for extra porta potties and especially hand washing stations.

Each municipality has their own recommendations and regulations (and whether or not they’re allowing events to occur at all). In places where outdoor fall events are taking place, it’s likely you’re going to need more portable toilets, hand washing stations, and standalone hand sanitizer dispensers to keep people washing their hands often and thoroughly. And don’t forget to maintain social distancing! Follow your local guidelines.

Here is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of considerations for events. It sounds like you’ll have a small, local community event, so take a look at their recommendations for things like wearing masks, maintaining six feet of distance between people, and providing adequate facilities for hand washing.

If your event is small, and you’ve never ordered portable toilets before, you may want to consider ordering one or two to supplement any indoor bathroom facilities. It depends on whether you’re expecting a lot of people and whether there’s enough room for people to social distance in the available facilities.

Also consider ordering extra hand sanitizer dispensers, and make sure you have plenty of refills available! In a usual year, festivals and haunted houses would have ordered porta potties and hand washing stations at least a few weeks in advance. In fact, they’re often ordered as early as August, depending on the area. This year, with fewer events, you may still be able to put an order in, even as late as mid-October. It really depends on your area and how many events are going on near you.

Any time you’re hosting an outdoor event, give us a call as early as possible to make sure you get the best selection of porta potties, fencing, hand washing stations, and any other site services you’ll need. This year may be different, but late October all the way through December is usually a peak time for toilet and fencing rentals. After Halloween and pumpkin patch season, Christmas tree lots sprout up and people need a lot of porta potties, office trailers, fencing, and storage containers. We like to get people scheduled early so they don’t miss out.

Hope that helps. Stay safe, and have a good pumpkin patch!

Ask Angela: How far in advance do we need to order a dumpster for a clean-out or remodel?

Angela Phillips is a Senior Account Manager III at ZTERS Waste Solutions. She helps customers with some of their most challenging site service issues, and she answers your questions here on our website.

Angela, how far in advance do we need to order a dumpster if we’re doing a clean-out or home remodel?

Not surprisingly, we get this question a lot in spring and summer. People are spending more time at home in 2020, and we’ve seen people either starting or planning major clean-outs and renovations. Here’s what you can expect when renting a dumpster for residential use, including how early you need to order a dumpster.

In most cases, if you call to schedule before noon you can have a dumpster delivered the next business day. (There’s usually a rush fee if the next day is a Saturday and you absolutely have to have it that day.) However, keep these things in mind:

  • Storms, natural disasters, and times when there is a large demand for dumpsters will almost always have a waitlist. We’ve helped customers bring in dumpsters from other areas, so that’s possible. But keep this delay mind if there’s any kind of increased demand in your area. I’ve written about storm debris cleanup before. Check out that article to read more about disaster cleanup.
  • You’ll need a dumpster that fits in your driveway or the front of your house (check permitting regulations!). This usually means a 10-yard dumpster. In some areas, especially where a lot of residential work is happening, there may be short supply of smaller dumpsters. Call a few days ahead to make sure you get the size you want.
  • Dumpsters aren’t usually delivered first thing in the morning. Standard delivery times usually fall between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m., but it’s not unusual for deliveries to happen as late as 5 p.m. If you have a crew coming, or you need to start using the dumpster in the morning, we highly recommend you have it delivered the day before you need it. That way even if it’s delivered late in the afternoon it’ll still be ready to go the morning you need it.

When in doubt, call and schedule a few days in advance. It’s better to call a little early than to not have a dumpster when you want it.

On that note, if you ordered a dumpster and it hasn’t shown up by 2 p.m., give us a call so we can check on it. Most local delivery offices close between 4 and 5 p.m. (with many offices closing at noon on Fridays!), so if the delivery hasn’t shown up, we need to know as early as possible.

Before you make the call, here are a few other tips when you order a dumpster for residential use:

  • Make sure you check for city or county permitting regulations. Some cities even rent dumpsters to residents (like Spokane, WA).
  • Make sure there’s enough clearance for the delivery truck to safely set the dumpster in place. A good rule of thumb is double the length and height of the dumpster.
  • Make sure you’re setting the dumpster on a hard surface like a driveway. They can’t be placed directly on soft ground because rain could cause it to sink and you run the risk of ruining the yard. There would also be extra fees if the dumpster sinks or gets stuck in mud because it’ll have to be towed out, costing extra time and expense. For extra protection, put down 3-4-inch plywood to prevent damage to whatever surface the dumpster is placed on.
  • You can’t put hazardous materials or chemicals like paint, antifreeze, or oil in a dumpster. Other no-go items include batteries, electronics, tires, and appliances. We compiled a list of items you can’t dump on our dumpster rental page.

Renting a dumpster for residential projects is pretty easy and straightforward. You can usually schedule it within a business day. This was a long answer to a short question, but hopefully you found the tips useful! If you need to order a dumpster for residential use, give us a call and we can help you set it up.

Ask Angela: How can we convert an indoor wedding to an outdoor wedding?

Angela Phillips is a Senior Account Manager III at ZTERS Waste Solutions. She helps customers with some of their most challenging site service issues, and she answers your questions here on our website.

Dear Angela: With everything going on, we decided to play it safe and convert our indoor wedding to an outdoor wedding (just in case events get shut down). What are some things we should consider when making the switch?

First, congratulations on your wedding! And second, you’re in good company. We’ve seen a lot of people make the switch and convert an indoor wedding to an outdoor wedding in 2020. Here’s some of the advice we’ve been giving soon-to-be-newlyweds:

  1. Rent your portable toilets as early as possible. Typically, you’d be making these rentals up to a month or two in advance. Get your rental squared away as soon as you know you’re converting an indoor wedding to the great outdoors. This helps ensure you actually get some toilets! If you’re planning a summer or fall wedding, you might still compete with festivals, fun runs, municipal events, and outdoor enthusiasts who rent portable toilets. A lot will depend on circumstances in your area, so call early. You even have lots of event portable toilet options to choose from.
  2. Consider using temporary fencing to create private areas and to prevent gate crashing if you’re in a public area. Temporary fencing can be combined with fabrics and floral arrangements to create an unobtrusive addition to your ceremony or reception. It doesn’t have to look like a construction yard!
  3. Storage containers make great staging areas for catering, DJs or bands, and it creates a safe, lockable space for storing gifts and other valuables while you enjoy your big day. We help people bundle storage units with their outdoor restrooms and fencing all the time.
  4. This might seem self-promotional, but it’s true—you can get all these outdoor services through one company like ZTERS. You (or your wedding planner) have enough to worry about without tracking down several different vendors for toilets, fencing, and containers. If there’s a problem, we can help. And you’ll get one invoice instead of managing one from each different vendor. No one wants to sort through invoices on a honeymoon!

You might be wondering how many portable toilets you’re going to need. We use this handy chart from the Portable Sanitation Association International. If you don’t feel like wading through charts and doing calculations, you can give us a call. We do this literally every day and we can help you sort it out.

In fact, I’ve even answered a previous question about event portable toilets for outdoor weddings. Feel free to take a look before you call, so you have some ideas about what you’d like.

Times are challenging, but you can convert an indoor wedding to an outdoor venue. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a big ordeal. Keep these ideas in mind and feel free to call us if you want some help figuring out what services are available. We help people rent portable toilets (and more) for events every day, and we’re glad to help you out.

Ask Angela: Helping crew members feel safe after the shutdown

Angela Phillips is a Senior Account Manager III at ZTERS Waste Solutions. She helps customers with some of their most challenging site service issues, and she answers your questions here on our website.

Dear Angela, Now that work is ramping back up from the Covid-19 shutdown, how can we help our crew members feel safe being back on the worksite?

This is a great question that a lot of people are asking right now. We know many construction sites continued operation throughout the shutdown because construction is considered an essential business in many places. However, we’re also seeing areas that were previously shut down now slowly starting to resume projects. Every state is different, and we’ve seen a wide range of experiences with our customers.

Like most businesses, we keep a close eye on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and they have a Community Mitigation Framework with guidelines around protecting workers and the public in general when congregating at work or in public places. This includes things like practicing social distancing of at least six feet, hand washing regularly, sanitizing areas more frequently, and wearing masks where appropriate.

On a construction site, some of these things can be more difficult—sometimes two-person lifting means you have to stand closer than six feet! However, there are still protections we’re seeing our customers and vendors implement.

For one, portable toilets and common areas like mobile offices are being disinfected more frequently and many jobsites are ordering extra handwashing stations to make sure people can wash their hands more frequently.

We also see a lot of safety managers recommending crew members practice social distancing as much as possible and wear a mask when it doesn’t affect the safety of the work you’re doing. We also see some sites requiring crew members to take their temperature before starting work.

The Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America put out a series of guidelines around worker safety in a post-COVID-19 world. They have social distancing recommendations specifically for construction sites. This includes a “no congregation” rule and not allowing food trucks on worksites. This may mean having safety meetings in smaller groups and asking crew members to bring their own lunch and space themselves further than six feet apart when they eat.  

It’s a good idea to check with your local regulatory agencies to find out if there are any special requirements in your area.

There will definitely be an adjustment period to these new rules. We recommend our customers use resources like these to come up with a written safety plan and communicate it to crew members. Having a written plan and following safety guidelines will go a long way toward protecting crew members and helping people feel safe being back on the jobsite.

We know there have been a lot of delays and back orders when it comes to handwashing stations, so give us a call to find out what’s available in your area and how to get more coverage on your site.

Ask Angela: portable toilets for camping

Angela Phillips is a Senior Account Manager III at ZTERS Waste Solutions. She helps customers with some of their most challenging site service issues, and she answers your questions here on our website.

Angela, we’re going camping for a family reunion and there are going to be a lot of us camping in one place—all ages—with no facilities nearby. Can we take a portable toilet camping?

Great question. It’s one we hear every year, especially since “glamping” became a thing. We also get this question from scout troops. The answer is probably, with some caveats. It depends on where you’re camping and the type of terrain.

You could always purchase small, portable camping toilets from an outdoors store or online, but that’s not going to give you privacy, and you’ll be left with bags of waste to clean up. I’m guessing you want something that operates more like a traditional porta potty or restroom trailer.

There are several porta potty options available, including larger ADA-compliant toilets and restroom trailers with shower stalls. Depending on how many people you’ll have, and the size of the location, you could go with a delivered trailer, a traditional porta potty, or there are even tow-able portable toilets on flatbed trailers that you can tow to the site yourself.

When deciding on what to rent, keep in mind a delivery truck will need to access the area (unless you’re towing it yourself). Also, you don’t mention whether you’ll be on private land or a state or federal park. Either way you’ll need permission to park a toilet on your campground.

Some public parks will allow you to bring portable toilet trailers, but you need to check with the park services department. There may be permits and fees involved. And if they do allow porta potties, they may have specific requirements for placement and features. For example, beaches will most likely require a protective base to prevent any leaks from getting into the sand. Always check with the location before you rent a toilet to make sure you’ll be allowed to bring it with you.

Another consideration is access to water and electricity. If you rent a restroom trailer, you’ll more than likely need access to both. For large units like these, it may require an extra fee if they need to manually change out the water and sewage tanks. Be sure to find out what’s available near near the campsite and what you’ll need to deliver or service the toilet.

Taking a portable toilet camping is doable, you just need to do a little planning beforehand. Have a great family reunion! And give us a call if you need help finding the right product for your site.