Many parks and recreation departments use some type of manual hand sprayers for weed control, pest control, degreasing or other maintenance activities. Are you doing everything possible to ensure you and your employees are getting maximum results and value from the department’s investment? Here are some suggestions.
1. Start with the right equipment.
Select a quality product that can stand up to long hours, harsh chemicals and rough treatment. Pay particular attention to the pump mechanism and the spray wand, which are the critical components. Make sure the device is able to be rebuilt and replacement parts are available. Many home-store backpacks do not meet these criteria.
2. Train technicians in correct operating procedures.
Check It Out--Have your technicians do a quick check of the equipment before leaving the starting point (shop, office, maintenance facility, etc.). This can be as simple as a quick visual inspection, then pressurizing the unit and a quick spray to ensure proper operation. If you don’t want to discharge the product, have techs team up and spray into each other’s sprayer. My philosophy is that if you are going to have a problem, have it somewhere you can do something about it, rather than out in the field.
Take It Easy--Make sure technicians are not over-pressurizing sprayers. Over-pressurizing will cause parts to fail, lead to non-productive downtime, and increase repair expenses. If your backpack isn't spraying, don't pump it up more, or you will break it. It is easy to turn a $3 O-ring replacement into a $50 repair. I like the following analogy for this situation: While in France, I went to a nice restaurant. The waiter didn't understand English, so I yelled louder. Don't over-pressure sprayers!
Take The Pressure Off--You will get longer life and fewer problems from your manual spray equipment if the technicians relieve the pressure in the unit. Certainly the pressure should be released at the end of the day, and optimally at the end of each stop. Leaving the sprayer under pressure for extended periods will reduce the life of components such as hoses, gaskets, O-rings, etc. We find that, by practicing this simple action, backpack sprayers in particular can achieve longer life. Just like your body, which needs recreation or relaxation to relieve the stress of the workday, sprayers need relief, or something will blow. Relieving pressure will also reduce the risk of wands bursting in freezing temperatures.
It’s A Spray Wand, Not A Crowbar--Our repair shop sees many spray wands and tips that are damaged from opening gates, being dragged on the ground and other inappropriate uses.
Tip Cleaning--Follow manufacturer directions for cleaning tips. This usually includes using a soft bristle brush and mild cleaner. Wire brushes, pins, pocketknives, etc. will destroy tips.
Freezing--Do not expose the sprayer to freezing temperatures. It will cost you time and money. Users in moderate climates, where freezing is not a regular occurrence, need to be particularly sensitive to this issue.
Check The Filter--Make sure technicians are checking and cleaning filters to prevent clogged tips and debris that can damage sprayers. You will probably need to show them where the filter is located.
Keep It Clean--Chemicals and debris build up in sprayers. Eventually, this debris will cause problems. Rinse sprayers with clean water. Run water through hoses, wands and tips.
You may be surprised at what you find in the unit. Aside from chemical buildup, our repair techs most commonly find labels and caps from herbicide and pesticide bottles in customers’ sprayers.
Report It--Make sure technicians are comfortable reporting problems. Too many times we see techs working with equipment that needs service. Instead of asking for help, they push the equipment past the breaking point, turning a small repair into a major rebuild.
3. Be prepared—don’t wait for problems.
Preventative Maintenance = Money in the Bank. Don’t wait for sprayers to fail and cause you to lose productive time. Perform the required preventative maintenance (PM). Keep moving parts properly lubricated. The main challenge to good PM is possessing, finding and reading the owner’s manual.
Emergency Repair Kit--Some parts, such as O-rings, check valves and gaskets can be easily replaced in the field. Prepare a small emergency repair kit for technicians so they can perform a simple repair and continue their route.
Eyes Open--Despite the best training, technicians don’t always follow department procedures. Observe firsthand employees’ equipment use in the field. Conduct truck inspections to ensure equipment is properly maintained.
Proper Storage--Make sure trucks are set up to provide a secure place for the sprayer. We often see damage caused by sprayers bouncing around, or being placed where they are stepped on or damaged by other loose equipment.
Tracking--Track equipment failures to see which parts are failing, which replacement parts need to be stocked, or which equipment is not appropriate for your service program. Track failures by technician to identify training opportunities.
Putting It All Together
Hand sprayers and backpacks are critical to your department’s success. Invest the time to train employees and properly maintain the equipment. Follow up to ensure it gets done. This will keep employees productive and on schedule, your parks looking great, and repair expenses to a minimum. Please share your equipment knowledge and horror stories at www.sprayequipmentblog.com.
Andrew Greess is president of Quality Equipment & Spray, which designs and builds custom spray-equipment solutions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org