Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Portable Toilets for Events

The question of how many portable toilets, what kind, and where to put them is always a concern, particularly for large outdoor events. The keys to the successful incorporation of portable toilets into an event are essentially threefold:

1. Correct estimation of the number of units needed. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the United Kingdom recommends that, when estimating the number of units required at an event, consideration be given to the duration of the event, the perceived consumption of food and beverages (particularly alcohol) by the audience, timing of breaks in entertainment performances, provision for children or elderly who make take longer to use a facility, and weather conditions and temperature. In addition, the ratio of women to men is essential to correctly estimating numbers. The figures below are combined averages of several sources (National Event Services, 2006; Government of Western Australia, 2004; and Rutherford-Silvers, 2004), and can be used for general estimates of toilet units required based on event duration (eight hours for both these graphs) and whether or not alcohol is consumed. Note that the straight lines in these graphs are the trend lines of the averages and it these lines that should be used. In addition to the number of toilet units, hand wash stations should be provided in the ratio of approximately 20% of the total number of toilets (i.e. for 100 toilets, 20 hand wash stations are needed). The Government of Western Australia (2004) in their extensive event guidelines, also further recommend that for more attendees:
  • Female toilets increase at the rate of one per 100 females with alcohol, or one per 200 without alcohol.
  • Male toilets increase at the rate of three per 500 males with alcohol, or three per 1000 without alcohol.
For events with different durations, they have the following recommendations for units:

  • More than eight hours, 100% increase over graph values
  • Six to eight hours, 80% of graph values
  • Four to six hours, 75% of graph values
  • Less than four hours, 70% of graph values.
According to National Event Services, in the US, federal and state guidelines also require one ADA toilet unit for each “cluster” of toilets, which works out to approximately 10% of the entire order that should be handicapped units. Event workers and employees must have their own dedicated facilities that should be located near work areas, specifically backstage, near the mixer tower, next to catering areas and car parks, and near first aid and children’s areas. Toilets with hot and cold hand-washing facilities should be provided for food handlers.

Portable Toilet Requirements for an Eight-Hour Event (Total Attendance up to 30,000)


Portable Toilet Requirements for an Eight-Hour Event (Total Attendance 25,000 to 100,000)

2. Correct location of the units. Where possible, toilets should be located at different points around the event site to minimize crowding and queuing problems. Attention should be given to accessibility for servicing and emptying. This may include temporary roadways and dedicated access routes, subject to the site layout.

3. Regular servicing schedule. Depending on the type, portable toilet units have waste storage tank capacities ranging from about 150 liters (40 gal) to 250 liters (65 gal). On average, a single usage will deposit approximately 1.4 liters (.37 gal) of waste. Based on another average of 54 to 75 seconds per use (men versus women), smaller units may therefore require major service and emptying of toilet receptacles as frequently as every two hours, or as infrequently as four hours, but this may need to be monitored if some units receive heavier usage than others due to their location. At a minimum, units should be cleaned and checked for supply replenishment (e.g. toilet paper) at two-hour intervals, and a plumber should at least be on call for short events and on site for longer events. Major service procedure involves driving the service truck to within approximately 20 ft (6 m) of the portable toilet, pumping or evacuating the effluent from the portable toilet receptacle into the truck holding tank, recharging the portable toilet receptacle, and performing minor repairs to the portable toilet as needed.

Read more about toilets in my new book from Elsevier, Special Event Production: The Resources.

References:

Government of Western Australia. (September 2004). Guidelines for Concerts, Events and Organized Gatherings. Department of Health.
National Event Services. (2006). Portable Toilet Calculator for Events. Retrieved September 11, 2006, from www.rentnational.com.
Rutherford-Silvers, Julia. (2004). Professional Event Coordination. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

22 comments:

  1. This is a really good article. Take note. Unless I missed it though it doesn't mention the fact that if you have overnight camping these figures need to be increased substantially.

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  2. Great article. On larger events, do you go with restroom trailers or just more portables?

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  3. That's all very clear, but what about events with temporary camping - like festivals - how does this affect the number of toilets required? It seems to me that more would be needed... Can anyone point me to recommended numbers for a 3 day event?
    JoCrow

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  4. Thanks for your comments, everyone. This is not a perfect science and one could go on to ridiculous ends with an extended event. I think the key point for longer events is a regular maintenance and cleaning schedule. From what I know about overnight events, the biggest problem seems to be toilets that are full and have not received maintenance (i.e. cleaning, emptying, re-supplying of paper, and hand cleanser). This of course, means that the number of useable toilets is decreased.

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  5. Also, some of the specialty rental companies like www.rentnational.com mentioned in the post can help with determining numbers for longer events.

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  6. These are the best and the most handy of them all. At open place events these can be used all the time.
    portable toilets

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  7. Doug, What has been your experience setting a large restroom trailer at a 4 day camping/concert event inside the concert grounds to replace portables? The attendance is 10,000 to 15,000 and could reach more.

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  8. I have personally not had any such experience. However, I think logically that the same number of actual toilets would be needed so if a trailer holds say 10 toilets and you need 100 for the event (not necessarily yours) then you would need 10 trailers. As with any type of toilet, regular cleaning and maintenance would also be essential.

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  9. Hi Doug,
    Do you have any tips to determining how many handicapped portolets to provide per attendee?
    Thanks!

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  10. Hello, Anonymous:

    I believe the current recommendation in the ADA (in the USA) is for one ADA toilet unit for each “cluster” of toilets, which works out to approximately 10% of the entire order that should be handicapped units (i.e. of 200 toilets total, for example, 20 should be for handicapped).

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  11. Well, I think you covered everything there. Nice us of graphs as well!

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  12. Very interesting. I had no idea so many toilets would have alcohol in them! I guess it makes sense because these concerts and events are where they usually get drunk. I'm glad you posted the graphs. They helped a lot! My friend went to a concert in Hamilton where they rented portable bathrooms and she said they were trashed by the end! So disrespectful of people.

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  13. I've been looking to find a place in Hamilton that does portable bathroom rentals. Does anyone know of somewhere?

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    1. There is a great company called Scotty Pine Portables that may be able to help you. They are out of Delhi, Ontario which is very close to Hamilton.

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  14. Portable restrooms are essential for outdoor events. Thanks a lot.

    Portable Toilets San Francisco

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  15. Very good article, many people struggling with sizing and number of toilets for special events. However, if the site has special events more than four or five times per year sealed cess pools fed from low water consumption toilets can be a viable alternative.

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  16. For most up-to-date information you have to visit the web and on world-wide-web I found this web site as a finest website for new updates. Thanks for this informative article about portable toilet.

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  17. I know I'm late to the table - but question: are there any rules for how far away a portolet must be from food prep tents? Beside the rows of toilets we stage for attendees, we'd like to barricade 1 off with a handwash station JUST for food vendors. How far away must it be?

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  18. Hi, Anonymous:

    One excellent resource from Sweden, the Event Safety Guide (available at https://www.msb.se/RibData/Filer/pdf/26172.pdf) recommends 50 m distance between food vendors and toilets. Portable toilet facilities that need servicing should be no more than 20 m from a service road. Also keep in mind that there should be both hot and cold running water for food vendors to use for washing.

    Since most public events come under the purview of local municipalities, any individual such jurisdiction may have their own rules so it is best to check with them first.

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  19. We alway use the purple book which is the "Purple book" http://www.midlandtoilethire.com/purple-book-purple-guide" event portable toilet hire guide and covers all aspects Health and Safety when holding an event.
    It is a really useful resourse and I'm sure it is relevant to other countries

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    1. Thanks for the reference to the Purple Guide. I am very familiar with this document and have referenced it in my two new books quite frequently. Certainly their guidelines on numbers of portable toilets required are pretty well in line with what I have stated, especially in my new book, Special Event Production: The Resources, Second Edition (see sidebar). In this book there are new graphs on the numbers needed.

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