New guardrails help everyone stay safe

Published 4:00 pm Thursday, March 14, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Everybody has at least one. 

It may be a box, a drawer, a storage tote or something similar. And it’s full of various cables, adapters and other gadgets you haven’t touched in years but are unwilling to throw away because you’ll definitely need that oddly shaped plug for something someday, right? 

No, you won’t. And it’s probably a good idea to declutter so you can separate the always-useful USB chords and chargers from the adapter that was manufactured specifically for one device you probably got rid of 10 years ago. 

That’s a realization I’ve come to many times, most often when preparing to move to a new residence. If you’ve moved at all, whether it was across town or the country, then you know what I’m talking about. You inevitably come across random junk, furniture, clothes, decorations and other belongings that are worthy of being thrown away, donated, repurposed or otherwise. 

During my most recent move a couple of weeks ago, I came across some junk worth taking to the River Road Solid Waste Collection Site for disposal. 

Many of you will recall the River Road Site closed for most of last October for some repairs and improvements. This was my first time using the facility since that project happened. I immediately noticed one welcome upgrade –– fresh, smooth pavement –– as I turned my rented moving truck off Magnolia School Road toward the site’s front gate. 

I followed that fresh pavement to the dumpster designated for bulk items, parking parallel to one of the site’s new additions –– a 46-inch-tall guardrail separating me from the edge of the site’s retaining wall, and a sharp drop into a row of dumpsters. 

The new guardrails have been a welcome addition for some, and a source of frustration for others. For decades people have gotten used to having unobstructed access to the dumpsters, sometimes backing their vehicles to the edge of the retaining wall so they could more easily dump their waste. 

Convenience and safety are two major factors Beaufort County Public Works focuses on in its upkeep of local solid waste sites. Installing guardrails was a way to maintain the former while bringing much-needed improvements to the latter. 

Without them, the door would still be open for a worst-case scenario to unfold –– one that’s happened at other sites in North Carolina and beyond. It happened in Cleveland County in 2012, when a man fell into a waste disposal container and later died from his injuries. According to an article citing a report from the local fire department, in April 2022, a woman tripped and fell approximately 8 feet into a pit at a transfer station while helping someone backing up their truck. The incident left her paralyzed from the waist down, although thankfully there was hope for a full recovery. 

Eight feet –– that was the approximate distance of the drop from the top of the wall to the ground in front of me at the River Road Site. 

On this trip, I was getting rid of a heavy couch. Was it a little more of a workout lugging that beast over the guardrail? Yes, and I’m grateful my girlfriend –– as well as a good Samaritan who volunteered to help us after disposing of his waste –– were there to help carry the couch to the container. 

Side note: If you’re bringing bulky items to a solid waste site, always bring help, whether it’s a friend, family member, moving crew or another option. Your trip will be safer, quicker and more efficient. 

It was worth the extra lift knowing that some sore muscles would be the only negative outcome of this trip to the solid waste site, thanks to the new safety improvements in place. 

Of course, not every trip to a collection site is as simple or easy as mine was. That’s particularly true for senior citizens and customers with disabilities. If you are a senior citizen and/or have a disability, you should ask a site attendant for assistance as needed. They will help arrange whatever next steps are necessary to dispose of your waste in a way that is safe and feasible for everyone involved. 

Brandon Tester is communications director for Beaufort County Government and a Washington resident.