Harbormaster says dumpster injuries have become an 'important' safety concern

Arrow Refuse manager says firm is inspecting containers in that area

There are a number of risks associated with boating, as there are with many other things. Boats can capsize, run aground or become stranded in open water. Foul weather, rough seas and rocky shoals are hazards most boaters avoid, if they can.


But Docks and Harbors’ latest safety concern, as expressed by Harbormaster Dwight Tajon, comes from a less obvious source: dumpsters.

At a meeting of the agency’s operations committee in the Harbormaster’s Office at Aurora Harbor Tuesday evening, Tajon said two recent incidents in which people were injured while using the dumpsters had prompted him to consider options for reducing the risk.

“To me, this is really important for safety,” Tajon said. “This has been three injuries within six months that we’ve had.”

The latest incident happened last week, Tajon said, when a worker from a ship in port attempted to open a dumpster near the Mount Roberts Tramway.

“The back hinges kind of worked their way out, and the lid came down on the lady’s face,” Tajon told the committee, eliciting grimaces and groans from the members.

The woman did not require hospitalization for her injuries, according to Tajon, but he said that she had filed a claim.

Committee member Kevin Jardell suggested Tajon write to Arrow Refuse, which provides garbage collection and roll-off services in Juneau.

“If you just contacted Arrow, it may be worthwhile to send a letter detailing that you are aware of three accidents in six months, and you have concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the rental units that they are providing,” Jardell said. “Send it from your legal department or your risk manager, and they might be willing to work with you on it. They’ve got to start noticing when they get three claims.”

Manager Jeff Riley of Alaska Pacific Environmental Services, which does business in Juneau as Arrow Refuse, wrote in an email Wednesday afternoon that he is looking into the issue.

“Having just heard of this safety concern in the last hour I immediately contacted Jim Penor, our contact for CBJ accounts,” Riley wrote. “Neither of us is aware of a current safety issue with the equipment at the harbor although we are both aware that the containers are not the easiest for residents to use. We are currently inspecting all of the containers in question … and I can assure you we will promptly address any safety concerns we may find.”

Penor, the solid waste coordinator for the City and Borough of Juneau, said Wednesday that Docks and Harbors manages its own dumpsters and that he has little to do with them.

“The harbors kind of beat to their own drum, just like the (Juneau International) Airport,” said Penor, comparing the two enterprises. “The airport dumpsters, I don’t know nothing about what goes on there.” Of the alleged problem with harbor dumpsters, he said he is familiar with potential issues with the design, but he added, “I would have to take a look at it before I knew what I was talking about.”

Penor said that while he would keep track of the situation, he does not want to “overstep” his authority by wading into Docks and Harbors’ affairs.

Tajon said Tuesday one option to improve dumpster safety would be to modify them, perhaps with new lids, although he said that Arrow’s permission would be needed.

“The ultimate option is purchasing a brand new dumpster,” said Tajon. The cost estimate of that, he said, is approximately $14,000 per dumpster.

According to Tajon, the dumpsters in question are at Aurora Harbor, Harris Harbor, Auke Bay Harbor and Douglas Harbor, as well as at the Intermediate Vessel Float serving downtown Juneau, and most if not all of them are 20-cubic-yard models.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.


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