This article identifies key points to consider when purchasing a portable toilet for an underground mine.
Sanitation and hygiene are critical to maintaining a healthy workplace. However, underground environments present additional challenges that need to be factored into the final purchase decision.
How to Choose the Right Mine Toilet
The bigger the site, the more toilets. This is a more general view but can help lay the groundwork.
The size of the project can give an overall view of numbers, but not all locations may be active. Because an underground industrial strength toilet is portable, it can be moved with the progression of drilling and opening of new sections. The site toilet in an inactive area, where there is no staff, can be relocated for re-use.
The natural layout of the mine can restrict available options, especially height requirements. Some industrial flush toilets can be customised and are modular with their design, whereas others are fixed. Ease of access must also be considered. A portable site toilet is transported into location and removed for waste disposal, as such the rock formations surrounding the entry and exit can impact the design.
Will the toilet be able to link up to existing utilities or does it need to be self-contained? Depending on the mine, access to power, water and air may not be readily available. As an example, coal mines can only use pneumatic, self-contained toilets.
Where the toilets will be located will also determine what utilities are accessible, for example, toilets in a crib room may have access to water, but those at the workface may not.
A portable site toilet can either be purchased or hired. A site with a shorter life cycle may opt to hire toilets rather than purchase as it is most cost-effective.
Maintenance of an Industrial Strength Toilet
How often a toilet is going to be used will impact the suitability of the available options. More frequently used toilets will require emptying more often, which will add additional costs to the purchase, whether emptying is provided in-house or through an external contractor.
Defining who is responsible for the toilets once in place. Cleaning consists of removal of waste (pump-out), thorough cleaning of the unit inside, as well as replenishment of all freshwater, paper and chemicals.
Sites can opt to use outside contractors to manage the ongoing clean-up and emptying of each portable toilet; this option may come with the purchase. Alternatively, this can be led by the site itself.
Design of the Underground Toilet
Accommodating the needs of both sexes underground is essential. A site must consider how they can satisfy these requirements through the supply of single-sex, unisex or dual capacity toilets as well as additional sanitary options. Gender may also have an impact on the frequency of use during each shift.
With more diverse workforces and international operations, it is important to consider cultural factors when sourcing the right facilities. Eastern and Western counterparts can have slight variations in toilet design. Depending on the location of the mine; cultural needs may need to be addressed.
Reviewing costs beyond the initial out-of-pocket expenses is essential. Labour, emptying, consumables, maintenance and servicing are all additional costs that can add up over the toilets lifetime.