What Everybody Ought to Know about Street Sweeper Safety

Street sweepers are slow moving and easy to spot, but they could still be deadly. In 2012, a New York man was killed after crossing the path of a street sweeper and getting sucked up by the rear tire.

Street sweepers move at 25 mph or less and are not generally dangerous. However, they are loud, and their drivers sometimes wear earplugs, so it’s possible that these drivers may not hear all street sounds and pedestrians. While street sweepers rarely cause problems, there is still the occasional accident that reminds us why safety is important around these powerful vehicles.

Trust the Professionals

When you see a street sweeper in your community, rest assured that the person driving it has been fully trained. Training for street sweeper operators usually encompasses about 32 hours of lecture and hands-on training, covering the topics of:

  • Machine operation 
  • Troubleshooting indicators 
  • Preventive maintenance 
  • Repairs 
  • Safety requirements

Street sweeping companies require their drivers to complete an on-the-road training program with a trainer or to pass a standardized driving test. Some street sweeping companies even require their employees to obtain a commercial driver’s license, which involves extensive training as well. With all of this training, street sweeper drivers learn to:

  • Check for broken and worn parts 
  • Perform regular maintenance on the vehicle 
  • Ensure there is optimal space while driving

Street sweeper drivers are fully trained professionals. But a street sweeper is a powerful machine and requires a lot of concentration to operate; thus, street sweeper drivers may not always be aware of all obstacles in their way, and pedestrians may forget to practice safety while around street sweepers. Thus, when you see a street sweeper, stay well away from its path.  

Report Any Problems

Street sweeper drivers are taught to drive in a safe manner to protect the lives of people around them. Their safety requirements include:

  • Performing regular maintenance on the vehicle 
  • Wearing protective equipment, which may include boots and gloves 
  • Avoiding alcohol and drugs while driving 
  • Not driving above the prescribed speed 
  • Staying clear of obstacles, especially pedestrians

An unsafe street sweeper driver is rare. However, if you see a street sweeper driver who looks like they’re driving recklessly, get out of the way and contact your city to report their unsafe driving.

Play It Smart

Staying safe around street sweepers is similar to other guidelines for pedestrian safety. If you follow these tips, you won’t have to worry about getting in the way of a street sweeper:

  • Don’t walk against the way traffic is going. 
  • Don’t jaywalk (cross only at crosswalks when the crosswalk signal is on). 
  • Like your parents always told you, look both ways before you cross the street. 
  • Don’t wear headphones because they could mute street sounds. 
  • Always be aware of your surroundings. Thus, don’t text or play games on your phone while you’re near traffic.

You might be saying to yourself, “I can text and walk at the same time. What’s the big deal?”  Unfortunately, that kind of thinking could get you into an accident when you least expect it. Play it on the safe side and be cautious around street sweepers and all other traffic.

Avoid Street Sweeping Tickets

While staying clear of street sweeping areas can keep you safe, there’s another benefit to staying away: no ticket.

Many cities fine residents who park in street sweepers’ paths because it prevents street sweepers from being able to complete their job. Pay attention to signs before you park in a street sweeping area-and avoid a hefty fine.

Street Sweepers: Powerful and Necessary

Surprisingly enough, there are several different types of street sweepers that clean up your streets. Some of the most common are:

  • Mechanical broom sweepers: primary street sweeper type in the U.S.; use a gutter broom to move debris from the curb and a water sprayer system to remove dust; effective for leaves, packed dirt, and sand. 
  • Regenerative air sweepers: use a regenerative air process to dislodge materials using air; contain a suction hose; able to pick up materials lodged in cracks. 
  • Vacuum sweepers: use gutter brooms to move debris into the path of a vacuum nozzle; best for removing debris from the gutter. 
  • Newer technology: refined versions of older technologies; powerful at removing dirt and debris but cost more to obtain.

Street sweepers are a needed commodity, especially in busy cities that frequently acquire dirt and litter. In the past, a street sweeper was an individual who would clean the streets with a broom and shovel. Imagine how much time and money was saved when street sweeping machines were invented!

When the New York man was killed by a street sweeper, it was a very unfortunate accident. However, the driver honked his horn for the man to get out of his path. The driver believed the man had cleared the street, until he accidentally fell into the vehicle. This reminds us that we need to be incredibly careful around these powerful vehicles, and stay as far away as we can so they can do their job without regretful accidents.

How to Reduce Storm Water Pollution

In Florida, we get an average 55 to 60 inches of rainfall each year. Most of that rain falls from June to November, during our wet season. All that rain is funneled into our waterways through our carefully designed communities. The rain travels over driveways, roads, alleyways, lawns, yards, and parking lots. Eventually they enter storm drains and into local ponds, lakes, rivers, wetlands, and canals, eventually into the ocean and our groundwater.

While rainwater is traveling across Florida, it can gather all kinds of pollutants, debris, and garbage, including fertilizers and pesticides. The last thing we want is for these pollutants to enter our waterways (especially underwater aquifers that supply our drinking water).

But what can you do?

Well, the more you know, the more you can help. Let’s start at the beginning.

What is storm water runoff pollution?

Storm water runoff is rain that ends up in storm drains. On its journey, it mixes with what’s on the ground. Some of these pollutants pose significant health and environmental risks:

  • Coolants, oil, metals, and grease from vehicles 
  • Pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals from homes and gardens 
  • Bacteria from failing septic systems and pet waste 
  • Soil erosion from bare ground like construction sites 
  • Soap from washing cars and other equipment 
  • Substances from leaky storage containers, accidental spills, etc. 

Rain also gathers larger garbage and debris as it washes into the waterways. In most areas, storm water runoff enters streams, rivers, lakes, and bays without getting cleaned of its pollutants.

Why do we need clean storm water?

Studies show unmanaged storm water runoff causes serious damage to waterways such as lakes, streams, and estuaries. Storm water pollution makes up at least 30% of the pollution in waters that have pollution problems. That may not seem like a lot, but when the problem is caused by millions of people in residential and commercial areas, it’s hard to fix.

Storm water runoff can degrade the quality of drinking water, making drinking water more difficult to treat and more expensive. It can also close swimming beaches and make shellfish growing less profitable.

Let’s take a closer look at the problems contaminated storm water causes:

  • Pollution harms and kills wildlife, especially fish. This affects fish farming and natural fish populations.
  • Pollution can close local businesses, especially those that rely on clean water for fishing, farming, or recreation.
  • Pollution can cause flooding in streams and wetlands, destroying the habitats of wildlife. 
  • When storm water can’t soak into the ground, it flows into developed land, causing flooding in homes and businesses.
  • Storm water diverts natural water flow systems, which can cause water shortages and droughts in areas that usually have plenty of water.

What can I do to reduce storm water runoff pollution?

While it would be nice to shift the problem to a government program or treatment plant, they can’t solve the problem alone.

Responsible Florida residents need to take responsibility for their individual pollution problems.

Here’s what you can do:

1. Properly maintain your vehicle. Maybe you’ve noticed oil slicks on the road after a rainstorm? That’s usually caused by oil leaks or other car problems.
2. Never dump anything down a storm drain.
3. Move your car during street cleaning days. Street sweepers move garbage, debris, and dirt off the street and prevent them from entering storm drains and into the water supply.
4. Wash your car at a car wash rather than in your front yard. Believe it or not, that causes less pollution because professional car washes have proper drainage.
5. Recycle used oil, antifreeze, and other automobile-related materials.
6. Drive less. Even using alternative transportation once a week can make a difference. Take a bus, bike, or carpool to work. Do multiple errands in one trip.
7. Get your vehicle emissions checked and repaired.
8. Invest in a low-emission or hybrid car.
9. Use less fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. Always follow the directions on the package and never fertilize immediately before it rains.
10. Preserve existing trees in your yard; you can even plant new ones. Trees absorb more rainwater and improve storm water management.
11. Replace part of your lawn with native plants. Grass is one of the least effective plants at preventing storm water runoff.
12. Maintain your septic system. Faulty septic tanks can cause pollution to groundwater and contribute to pollution during a storm.
13. Clean up after your pet when it does its “business.” You should also keep all animals, including cows, horses, and other livestock, out of streams and rivers.
14. Reduce runoff of your rooftop, patio, driveway, and lawn. Put plants under your downspouts to absorb excess water.
Consider installing permeable paving or patterned brick to allow water to seep into the ground.
15. Support your local surface water program. Take time to politely educate your neighbors about what they can do to prevent storm water runoff pollution.

To find out more about how to prevent pollution and other community projects, check out our blog for updates.

Stay Updated: Effective and Cost- Efficient Street Sweeping Practices

In an earlier post click here to read, we mentioned that, “the number one most important way to make street sweeping effective is to make sure that all cars are removed from the street.” This consideration is obvious to professional street sweepers.

Why is street sweeping so critical?

This second question helps both professionals and citizens alike to understand the long-term implications of street sweeping. Pay attention to the practices you implement, ask yourself if you are up-to-date, and be more cost effective in the end.

In trying to pinpoint your reasoning for street sweeping, some important questions to ask might be: are you targeting water quality goals? Is street sweeping being employed for aesthetic/cosmetic reasons? Whatever the reason, just knowing your priorities is the first step in implementing an effective sweeping program.

Sweeping for Cosmetics/Aesthetics

If you’re street sweeping for cosmetic reasons, you’ll be more effective when you stick to a schedule. Designing and adhering to a set schedule will increase efficacy and efficiency—you’ll likely be more thorough by staying within your timetable instead of getting behind and having to skimp on sweeping protocols.

Additionally, home and business owners will get in the habit of following the schedule and avoid parking during sweeping hours.

When setting a schedule, it is wise to be flexible. Cities are busy, so it pays to accommodate citizen’s schedules as well as climactic conditions. You’ll want to take the following into account:

• Land use

• Traffic volume

• Field observations (of sediment and trash accumulation)

Once you’ve considered the above, get the law on your side.

Work within city ordinances to incorporate parking policies before, during, and after sweeping. If your street sweeping program has the nod of approval from the city council, here is a list of things you might consider:

Post permanent signs in traffic-heavy areas (consider temporary signs if permanent signs aren’t an option).

Develop a parking policy to restrict parking during street sweeping periods. Distribute fliers to notify residents of schedules.

While it may seem like a hassle initially, implementing a set schedule for street sweeping will save you time and money in the long run.

Sweeping for Water Quality

Most street sweeping programs are limited by cost. With that in mind, remember time is money. If you are sweeping for water quality, don’t use valuable time sweeping areas that don’t accumulate much debris—forgo areas that don’t have curbs/gutters (as there is usually less debris there).

Many studies have showed that street sweeping is effective in reducing pollutants in storm water. Sweeping decreases the amount of pollutants that would otherwise be picked up by storm water runoff. Maximize the potential for finding (and solving) water and air pollution problems by implementing a program that is set to run right after a rain storm.

With water quality in mind, make sure the program you use has a strict disposal and reuse policy. While some trash and debris can be recycled or sent to a landfill, other street sweeping material may be hazardous. To determine if such is the case, collect debris and run tests in order to ensure you are following all federal and state regulations. Take the time to follow regulations so you won’t have to spend time dealing with any legal fallout later.

Another important factor in street sweeping for water quality is your machinery. There are three different types of street sweepers and each has its advantages and disadvantages.

• Mechanical

• Regenerative Air

• Vacuum Filter

Each machine impacts pollutant removal, speed, travel distance, noise, and cost differently. Know the machine (and weigh its pros and cons) before buying it. Take cost and efficiency into account when purchasing a street sweeper.

Whether you are sweeping for cosmetic, water quality, or any other reason, take the time to understand the practices that are effective and well-suited for your sweeping purposes. While a “best” practice has yet to be fully determined, there are certain practices that lead the field. Once you have determined the why of your intended street sweeping, do your homework on the how.

Stay up to date in your field with help from USA Services, where we know street sweeping, guardrail repair, and keeping your professional enterprises running smoothly.

How to Inspect Your Concrete Road Barriers

In an ideal world, everyone would stay in their lanes and nobody would get in automobile accidents. However, since accidents do happen, we need curbs, shoulders, and concrete road barriers to keep other drivers safe.

If you’re in charge of maintaining road barriers, you need to know how to keep those barriers in good condition. If they’re damaged, they might not have the ability to keep opposing flows of traffic safe from each other. Inspect your barriers regularly so that they don’t create a safety hazard.

What Should You Watch For?

When you inspect your barriers, terminals, and transitions, make sure you check for the following:

1. The barrier might have crash damage or another kind of misalignment. You’ll need to repair it so the barrier doesn’t completely break the next time an accident happens.

2. Cracks and erosion may have also weakened the barrier. Make sure you repair that as well.

3. People often add signs and throw trash where they shouldn’t. Clean the area around the barrier so that no vegetation or garbage hinders drivers.

4. Your barrier should have a minimum height of 735 mm, and that height should be uniform across the barrier.

5. The barrier should also not have a steep slope leading up to it. If there’s a steep slope, cars could fly over the barrier, so you should level that ground as soon as possible. Shallow, small slopes are acceptable.

6. Your transitions to bridges and other barriers should not have gaps in them. They should be solid enough to provide protection along the entire stretch of road.

7. The shape, length, and construction of the barrier should also conform to local and state regulations. GM shape barriers should almost always be replaced when damaged, but other adjustments depend on your region. Consult your local government to learn more.

Even though concrete road barriers are fairly maintenance free, you’ll still want to inspect yours regularly. Cracks and debris can turn your barriers into a safety hazard instead of a safety precaution. You won’t have to worry about the integrity of your barriers very often, even after an accident, but you will always have to worry about the making sure they don’t cause problems because of damage or debris.

What Do You Do with the Debris?

Cleaning up that debris is easy—hire a street sweeping contractor to clean the area regularly. In most situations cleaning these areas also requires following specific Maintenance of Traffic rules, such as providing shadow vehicles with truck mounted attenuators.

Contact USA Services today to learn more about the sweeping and MOT services we can provide.

The State of the Streets of Sochi

On Feb. 24, the last medals were handed out as the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics came to an end. However, an unseen culprit unseen by almost everyone may have altered whom the medals were awarded to. Indeed, this undetectable culprit may have affected some of the top competitors, forcing them to compete at a less-than-optimal level or withdraw from the Olympic

Games altogether.

This culprit? Dirty streets.

A Look at The Streets of Sochi

Building and street construction was finished right as the Olympic Games opened. As a result, the streets were covered by a fine grit which often accompanies new building construction. Moreover, new cement can also create fine dust particles when it’s walked on for the first time, and Sochi’s streets certainly saw an influx of traffic.

These fine particles are easily cleansed by power sweeping. Russia, however, employed a different, harmful cleaning tactic: manual sweeping.

Russian cities hired individuals to manually sweep the streets with straw brooms. These inferior brooms, combined with a lack of any sort of water cleaning or power sweeping, released dust particles into the air. When inhaled by athletes—particularly those prone to allergies or asthma—these particles can negatively affect performance.

Athletes Affected

Athletes get sick at every Olympics. It is to be expected as people with viruses and bacteria strains from all parts of the world share the same confined space and breathe the same air. Thus, when dust particles lead to an illness in one individual, that illness is easily spread.

One notable athlete who fell sick (presumably due to dust inhalation) was Norwegian Axel Lund Svindal. Svindal is a top alpine downhill skier who was supposed to contend for the medal stand. But as fate would have it, Svindal had a massive allergic reaction that forced him to withdraw from the Olympic Games and return to his native Norway.

Other athletes and personnel experienced running noses, lethargy, asthmatic symptoms, itchy eyes, and respiratory difficulties. Many complained of a heavy feel of concrete in the air and of fine dust entering their respiratory system. Sadly, these effects could have been minimized by proper power sweeping.

Don’t Repeat the Sochi Street Fail

Don’t let your family, customers, or passerby inhale concrete or fine dust particles. Whether you have recently completed construction or simply want to thoroughly clean the streets around your home or business, contact USA Services of Florida today. We have the tools to do it safely and effectively.