How to build a safe environment when working with equipment rental

United Rentals equipment
By Taylor Abel, director of safety at United Rentals

Cleanliness is an essential component to crafting a successful safety culture.

In the current public health environment, it is also the subject of numerous conversations and the emphasis of new protocols across industries – and the world. At United Rentals, safety is entrenched in the culture and the additional precautions on top of those foundational operating principles help ensure our teams and customers can continue to operate safely.

A safe equipment shop follows a set of standard principles. The foundational safety best practices that have been instituted regularly, even before COVID-19, are what we continue to encourage and emphasize.

As companies look to rent equipment to address their worksite needs, they need to have confidence the equipment rental provider adheres to best practices for disinfecting equipment touch points.

The starting point includes operations that allow for and adhere to social distancing guidelines. Next, while personal protective equipment (PPE) has long been recognized as essential to a safe work environment, current conditions have led to rental companies providing additional gear to protect from health hazards, such as masks and gloves.

Here are three necessary services that equipment rental providers can provide to companies:

Provide contactless service

Now more than ever, companies need to have more options to rent the equipment they need, safely and efficiently.

In addition to having equipment delivered to a worksite or available to an equipment rental provider branch, providers should offer a “contactless” drive-up experience to pick up or drop off equipment that helps serve companies faster, and keeps them safe.

Companies should also have many options for how they order equipment to get what they need without going inside a branch. These include the ability to browse and reserve equipment online, on the phone or with mobile apps. After using these capabilities, customers should be able to pull up to an equipment rental branch, confirm their order and load or unload while they wait in their vehicle.

Ensure clean equipment

As noted earlier, a safe worksite is built on a fundamental set of operating principals, which includes disinfecting equipment.

Cleanliness is as important as ever, and when folded into an existing culture, teams can continue operating safely and efficiently. Ensure your equipment rental provider is taking the necessary steps to ensure its fleet is sanitary and ready for use.

Prior to equipment being rented, employees should conduct a variety of safety and mechanical checks to assure the equipment functions correctly and safely. In addition to these routine checks, providers need to disinfect the equipment. They should use government-approved disinfectants and follow manufacturers’ instructions on their application to spray and/or wipe commonly touched surfaces necessary to operate tools and machinery. In particular, they need to focus on things like controls, buttons, latches, knobs, grab handles, operator seats, seat belts and buckles.

If the rental provider is dropping equipment off at a customer worksite, be sure their drivers perform a “last touch” precautionary disinfecting of the equipment. They should use a government-approved disinfectant and spray or wipe the surfaces touched by the driver when delivering the equipment.

Check to see if the rental provider has communicated to its employees on disinfecting equipment, practicing good personal hygiene and social distancing, plus the proper disposal of wipes, towels and any PPE they use in connecting with equipment delivery.

Address sanitary needs

The current situation has led to many companies to expand their equipment needs beyond the standard array of excavators, wheel loaders and compact track loaders. They are turning to rental providers to address worker sanitation and health needs with equipment including portable sanitation products, such as hand sanitizing and washing stands, and portable restrooms and trailers.

RELATED: Equipment finance solutions during an economic recovery

Other equipment needs include air quality and filtration products such as air scrubbers, air conditioning/heater units and HEPA vacuums; floor care products; temporary power and lighting; HVAC equipment, heaters and traffic control. 

In the current environment, it’s important for everyone to prioritize the safety of their employees and customers. Companies should make sure to follow the latest information on COVID-19, including information from official government websites, for emergency orders, guidance with respect to personal hygiene and general updates on the COVID-19 situation. 

Companies who are working and renting equipment during this pandemic need to anticipate changes of government orders as the pandemic evolves. They should choose an equipment partner that puts safety first and offers equipment and service to meet their needs and exceed expectations.

Taylor Abel is the director of safety at United Rentals. He is also the chair of the Serious Injury and Fatality Prevention working group for the Campbell Institute. Abel is a registered professional engineer.