By Jeremy Nuehring
Moving dumpsters is not rocket science. But there are far too many stories about employees getting injured while trying to stop a loaded dumpster from sliding off a forklift. Or losing control while pushing it up a ramp and having it crash into a resident’s brand new Mercedes.
Insurance statistics bear this out: For mid-rise and high-rise multifamily apartments and condos, the trash room is the most dangerous area on the property. The average cost of a Workers Comp claim can be more than $41,000—and the increase to your company’s worker’s comp insurance premium could increase by three times for up to three years.
So, before you purchase your next dumpster pusher or tug, answer these four questions:
Is the equipment purpose-built for the job?
OSHA says if an employee must exert more than 50 lbs. of force to move a stationary object, it creates a risk for injury, and they recommend the use of a motorized “assist” to get the object moving. A loaded dumpster often weighs 2,000 pounds.
Forklifts, four-wheelers, pallet jacks, golf carts or other side-by-side vehicles such as Gators or Rangers can all be used to pull or push dumpsters from the trash room to the curbside for hauler pick up. They’re tempting to purchase because they’re multi-purpose—they also haul, move snow, and carry tools. But these products will miss the mark if your primary objective is to reduce risk of injury when moving dumpsters.
For example, forklifts and pallet jacks require the user to raise two, up to all four, caster wheels off the ground to move the dumpster. More injuries and property damage occur when wheels are off the ground. Alternately, users who attach a ball hitch or chain to tow a dumpster out of the trash room to another area for pickup are at risk for back and shoulder strains.
Purpose-built equipment pays for itself in fewer workers comp claims and time off work due to injury.
Does your equipment vendor have a track record in trash rooms and understand your application? Will they stand behind what they sell you?
Trash room experts are like engineers: They have a defined process for helping you find the right solution by asking you questions such as:
- Is your trash compacted or loose?
- What size are your dumpsters?
- Fixed or swivel casters?
- What does the path from the trash room to the curb look like?
- Rough surfaces?
- Climate/weather issues?
Failure to assess your specific trash room challenges may indicate your vendor is more interested in making a sale than in solving your problem. Be sure to follow up on your assessment with “after the sale” questions:
- What if I purchase from you and find out the equipment simply cannot do the job?
- Will you replace it with a product that will?
- Will you refund my money if your recommended product won’t perform?
What’s my support plan after I purchase? Will parts be available for the service life of my equipment?
Whether you lease or purchase a powered dumpster mover, acquiring a capital asset means costs amortize over time. Your dumpster mover will last for years, but you’ll likely need replacement parts and onsite service at some point.
If your mover uses commonly available components (such as tires and batteries), you will be able to handle basic maintenance yourself, extending the usable service life and reducing maintenance costs. But what about proprietary manufacturers’ parts? Are they kept in stock? Has the company been in business long enough to give you confidence they will be around to support you for years to come? How available is the service network?
What are other property managers’ use cases with equipment in the trash room? Do you have customers I can call for a referral?
Besides safety, many property managers find the right dumpster mover also gave them a significant opportunity to improve efficiency. Instead of requiring 2 employees to move dumpsters, having a powered dumpster mover only required one to do the job safely, doubling efficiency. Your manufacturer should make you aware of these use cases or of property managers who had similar challenges to yours. Additionally, find out if the manufacturer’s equipment has already been placed within your company’s portfolio. The best referral is from someone you have familiarity with.
Bringing a powered dumpster mover into your property can deliver significant safety and financial benefits. Getting the answers to the questions above can help you make the right product choice, and realize those benefits at your property.
Best practices for technical specifications
There are four best practices to consider:
- Weight. A dumper mover should weigh at least 500 lbs. Empty or full, dumpsters are heavy, and the highest risk is when an employee starts moving it from a stationary position. Climate and terrain issues compound the risk. Be sure the product has enough weight for proper traction. Larger dumpsters or steep inclines may require an even larger unit.
- Footprint size. Many trash rooms are narrow and hard to navigate. Dumpsters often must be pulled and pushed into a resting area. Make sure the equipment’s footprint is as short as possible—about 60” or less from handle to dumpster.
- Rugged, durable design. The reason your dumpster is made of steel is because the trash room is a tough environment. Your dumpster mover should be equally up to the challenge, made with a steel frame and body.
- Battery life. Your dumpster mover may have to make long or numerous trips between charges. Your equipment should come with at least three 12-volt batteries to ensure adequate runtime.
- Variable speed. OSHA outlines strict requirements related to “powered-assist carts” that call for unlimited variable speed in production environments at manufacturing plants. Your requirements are similar. Unlimited (meaning it has the capability to “crawl” at a very slow speed) variable speed allows the operator precise control to make slight movements in tight areas. Without unlimited variable speed, a sudden jerk could put your operator in harm’s way between the dumpster mover, the dumpster and the wall. Products with a hand twist grip provide the best control.
Jeremy Nuehring is a senior sales engineer at DJ Products (Little Falls, Minn.). In business for 18 years, DJ Products manufactures and markets battery-powered pushers and tugs for the materials handling, aircraft, waste and manufacturing industries. Jeremy leads the team focused on solutions for multi-family including commercial, affordable and government owned properties. He can be reached at [email protected]. You can learn more about DJ Products by visiting their website at www.DJProducts.com.