Funky facilities and units stuck in mud are two of the pitfalls to be sidestepped.
A portable restroom, aka port-a-potty, is a convenience and often, a necessity. At a jobsite, it may constitute the only restroom facility available. At a wedding, it may supplement the indoor plumbing and help guests spend more time celebrating and less time waiting in line for the indoor restroom. Events such as presidential inaugurations and papal visits often call for port-a-potties by the thousands.
What could go wrong? Several things.
1. Ordering the wrong kind of port-a-potty
Standard plastic port-a-potties make sense for many events and jobsites, explained Jerry Vecchiarelli, regional product development manager for the Reliable Onsite Services group at United Rentals, but they aren't right for every situation. Luxury restroom trailers, which come with varying numbers of stations, feel more like an indoor restroom and are more appropriate for upscale events.
"What is the audience? Is it black-tie, a backyard wedding, jeans and shorts?" he said. "Are plastic restrooms acceptable, or do you need something higher-end with running water, flushing toilets, lighting, mirrors, air conditioning and heat if needed — all the comforts of home?"
If you need it to fit in a low-clearance space, on the other hand, you may need a mini portable restroom or an elevator unit. United Rentals also offers port-a-potties designed for mines and hoistable plastic units that can be lifted onto buildings with a crane.
2. Ordering too few port-a-potties
It can be hard to know how many portable restrooms you'll need, especially for larger crowds. For help, check out How Many Port-a-Potties Do You Need? Be sure to have one handicap-accessible restroom for every 20 portable restrooms (a ratio of 5 percent), and at least one.
3. Putting port-a-potties in the wrong place
Port-a-potties must be protected from vehicle traffic but accessible to vehicles for service. Vehicles may be an issue at industrial sites. And mud and trees at outdoor events and in natural surroundings sometimes present problems.
"We can't put a portable restroom or restroom trailer out in a marsh or a swamp, for example. We need to be able to drive up next to it," Vecchiarelli said. That typically means driving up in a tanker truck weighing between 10,000 and 20,000 pounds.
"I've had scenarios where a customer wants a trailer out in a field. And I might say, 'that's fine, but the forecast shows rain for the next three days. And if it's going to rain, could we get into a situation where we won't be able to get it out of the mud? What is the solution if that happens? Is there a better place to put it?' All that has to be taken into consideration."
4. Settling for subpar service
The key to a good experience with port-a-potties is often the service, which can include pumping out the wastewater, recharging the tank with deodorizer and water, washing the inside of the unit and replacing the toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
Port-a-potties should be serviced every few days or at least once a week. Some contexts call for more-frequent service. Disaster areas often use port-a-potties to accommodate large numbers of relief workers, and those units may need to be serviced every day, Vecchiarelli noted.
5. Skimping on soap or hand sanitizer
Providing soap or hand sanitizer is a gesture some people forget. It’s a must anywhere food is being served and a good idea in general.
6. Ignoring safety
It is important to consider safety when placing and maintaining portable restrooms on a site.
"At United Rentals, we have a strong safety culture and are very cognizant of potential issues on-site,” said Vecchiarelli. Service personnel wear the appropriate PPE, such as hard hats, steel toe boots and high visibility clothing. In addition, Vecchiarelli noted, “The trucks carry road cones to add visibility while servicing portable restrooms.”
You can find all of United Rentals’ portable restrooms here.