Title:
Safety ramp for dumpster
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A trash dumpster includes one or more transition elements, e.g., one or more safety ramps, which span from the above-ground dumpster bed adjacent to a side or end opening of the dumpster to the ground or other external surface when the ramp is deployed into an operating position. The ramp provides a step-free pathway extending between the interior bottom surface of the container and the external surface on which a person may more safely carry, wheelbarrow, or drive debris into the dumpster. The ramp may be integral to the dumpster bed, or may be removably attached so as to allow stowage in a compartment located underneath or on the side of the dumpster when not in use.



Inventors:
Lepine, Thomas M. (Capitol Heights, MD, US)
Ross, Richard T. (Capitol Heights, MD, US)
Application Number:
10/369681
Publication Date:
09/18/2003
Filing Date:
02/21/2003
Assignee:
RampsAmerica, LLC
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D6/22; B65G69/28; (IPC1-7): B65D6/28; B65D8/18
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ADDIE, RAYMOND W
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
POLSINELLI PC (HOUSTON, TX, US)
Claims:

What is claimed as new and desired to be protected by letters patent of the United States is:



1. A container, comprising: a bottom and a plurality of sides suitably arranged to define a volume therebetween; an opening suitably adapted to allow entry into the container, said opening being located on at least one of the sides; and a first transition element spanning an interior bottom surface of the container adjacent to the opening and a surface external to the container when the first transition element is in an operating position, said first transition element providing a step-free pathway extending between the interior bottom surface and the external surface.

2. The container of claim 1, further comprising a storage rack connected to one of the bottom and a side, said storage rack being adapted to receive the first transition element while in a non-operating position.

3. The container of claim 2, further comprising restraining means for ensuring that the first transition element selectively remains in the non-operating position.

4. The container of claim 1, wherein the first transition element is hingedly connected to the bottom of the container at an end of the first transition element located distal from the opening.

5. The container of claim 1, wherein a surface of the first transition element, in a non-operating position, lies essentially flush with the interior bottom surface of the container.

6. The container of claim 5, further comprising restraining means for ensuring that the first transition element selectively remains in the non-operating position.

7. The container of claim 1, wherein the first transition element comprises: a first part hingedly connected to a second part, wherein the first part is adapted to overlay an end portion of the interior bottom surface of the container, and wherein the second part is thicker than the first part.

8. The container of claim 7, wherein the second part includes strengthening means for stiffening the second part.

9. The container of claim 8, wherein the strengthening means is arranged at least along two edge portions of the second part.

10. The container of claim 8, wherein the strengthening means is tapered at an end which contacts the surface external to the container.

11. The container of claim 7, wherein the second part comprises a nonskid safety material.

12. The container of claim 7, wherein the second part, in a stowage position, is rotated into a position essentially perpendicular to the bottom.

13. The container of claim 1, further comprising a second transition element connected to the first transition element, wherein the second transition element spans the interior bottom surface of the container adjacent to the opening and the surface external to the container when the first and second transition elements are in the operating position, said second transition element being laterally separated from and essentially parallel to the first transition element to define a space therebetween.

14. The container of claim 13, further comprising adjustment means for adjusting the lateral separation between the first and second transition elements.

15. The container of claim 1, further comprising attachment means for connecting the first transition element to the interior bottom surface of the container adjacent to the opening while the first transition element is in an operating position.

16. The container of claim 15, wherein the attachment means comprises one or more hooks adapted to engage a corresponding hole in the interior bottom surface of the container.

17. The container of claim 15, wherein the attachment means comprises a pin extending through holes aligned through both the first transition element and the interior bottom surface of the container.

18. The container of claim 17, wherein the pin is a spring-loaded pin having a lifting eye on an exposed end.

19. The container of claim 17, wherein a hole in the first transition element is a slotted elongated hole which allows movement of the first transition element with respect to the interior bottom surface of the container.

20. The container of claim 17, wherein the pin is arranged to restrain the first transition element in both the operating position and a stowed, non-operational position.

21. The container of claim 20, wherein the pin comprises at least one through-piece extending essentially perpendicularly through a cylindrical body of the pin.

22. The container of claim 20, wherein a hole in the first transition element has a key-like shape essentially corresponding to a cross-section of the pin.

23. A ramp suitable for attachment to and use with a trash container having a bottom and a plurality of sides suitably arranged to define a volume therebetween, the ramp comprising: a first part hingedly connected to a second part, wherein the first part is adapted to overlay an end portion of the bottom of the trash container, wherein the second part is thicker than the first part, and wherein the second part is suitable for safely supporting a person and a wheeled vehicle.

24. The ramp of claim 23, wherein the second part comprises a non-skid safety material.

25. The ramp of claim 23, wherein the second part comprises strengthening means for stiffening the second part.

26. The ramp of claim 25, wherein the strengthening means is arranged at least along two edge portions of the second part.

27. The ramp of claim 25, wherein the strengthening means is tapered at an end which, along with the second part, contacts a surface external to the container.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application is a continuation-in-part application of the following copending Design Patent applications, the entire contents of each of which are hereby incorporated by reference, and for which benefit is claimed under 35 U.S.C. §120: 29/149,247, filed on Oct. 9, 2001 by Thomas M. Lepine, entitled “Dumpster Ramp”; 29/150,128, filed on Nov. 7, 2001 by Thomas M. Lepine, entitled “Self-Enclosed Ramp for a Roll-Off Dumpster”; 29/151,839, filed on Dec. 13, 2001 by Thomas M. Lepine, entitled “Curb Ramp”; 29/152,487 filed on Dec. 26, 2001 by Thomas M. Lepine and Richard T. Ross, entitled “Safety Ramp for Dumpster”; 29/154,114 filed on Jan. 22, 2002 by Thomas M. Lepine, entitled “Dumpster Door Hold-Down”; 29/154,115 filed on Jan. 22, 2002 by Thomas M. Lepine, entitled “Folding Dumpster Ramp”; 29/156,021 filed on Feb. 25, 2002 by Thomas M. Lepine and Richard T. Ross, entitled “Heavy Equipment Ramp for Use With Dumpsters or Containers”; 29/158,800 filed on Apr. 11, 2002 by Thomas M. Lepine and Richard T. Ross, entitled “Heavy Equipment Ramp”; 29/163,471 filed on Jul. 18, 2002 by Thomas M. Lepine, entitled “Dumpster Ramp, Pin, and Under Carriage”; 29/165,705 filed on Aug. 16, 2002 by Thomas M. Lepine, entitled “Heavy Equipment Ramp”; and 29/165,856 filed on Aug. 20, 2002 by Thomas M. Lepine, entitled “Safety Ramp for Dumpster”.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Work place safety is increasing in importance. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has responsibility in the United States for worker and workplace safety. In many cases, OSHA requires employers to provide and pay for safety related equipment. Based upon OSHA statistics, 12.2 injuries or illnesses are reported for every 100 workers. More than 1,200 construction workers were killed in 1998, a 6% increase from 1997. Prevention of accidents is generally considered to be much more cost-effective than correction of a safety problem after an accident, in terms of avoiding property damage and work stoppage, as well as avoidance of human injury or death. OSHA estimates that for every $1 invested in worker safety and health, employers can save between $4-$6 in accident-related costs.

[0003] The construction industry, among others, relies upon relatively large trash receptacles, or “dumpsters”, to collect work site debris and trash. These dumpsters are typically hauled to the work site, where they remain until either full of trash, or until the particular job is completed. Such dumpsters may have a size ranging from 5 to 10 feet wide, 4 to 8 feet high, and 10 to 20 feet long, for example. Typically, dumpsters suitable for construction sites have a relatively large door at one end, through which debris is placed into the container, oftentimes by workers who carry, throw, use a wheelbarrow, or drive the debris into the dumpster, using a small front-end loader, for example. However, the conventional approaches to filling such dumpsters may present a safety hazard to workers. In particular, it has been observed that when a wheelbarrow is used to roll debris into a dumpster, old pieces of plywood, damaged doors, or backfill are often used as makeshift ramps to allow rolling or carrying the debris from the ground level up to the floor of the dumpster, which may be at a height of approximately six inches to two feet or more above the ground level. This can present a safety problem for the worker or those around him, particularly when dealing with large, heavy, or unwieldy items.

[0004] Conventional dumpsters, as sold, do not include a ramp suitable for a person to walk, push a wheelbarrow, or drive a vehicle, e.g., front-end loader, into the dumpster. We are not aware of any aftermarket design or sales of ramps suitable for modifying commercial trash dumpsters to alleviate the above-discussed safety concerns associated with work place use of utility trash receptacles or dumpsters. We have also determined that there is potentially great commercial interest in having such a ramp available for adding to an existing trash receptacle, or for incorporation into the manufacture of new commercial trash containers, particularly for dumpsters used in the construction industry, for example.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0005] In one embodiment of the invention, a container, e.g., a trash dumpster or receptacle, includes a bottom and a plurality of sides suitably arranged to define a volume. An opening on at least one of the sides is present, with or without a door, which allows entry into the container. A first ramp-like transition element preferably spans an interior bottom surface of the container adjacent to the opening and a surface external to the container when the first transition element is in an operating position. The first transition element provides a step-free pathway which extends between the interior bottom surface and the external surface, for example, the ground.

[0006] In another embodiment of the invention, a ramp suitable for attachment to and use with a trash container preferably includes a first part hingedly connected to a second part, wherein the first part of the ramp is adapted to overlay an end portion of the bottom of the trash container. The second part is preferably thicker than the first part, thus rendering the second part suitable for safely supporting a person and/or a wheeled or tracked vehicle, e.g., a front-end loader. Preferably, the second part of the ramp comprises a non-skid safety material, for example diamond tread and/or grip strut.

[0007] Further scope and applicability of the present invention will become apparent from the detailed description given hereinafter. However, it should be understood that the detailed description and specific examples, while indicating preferred embodiments of the invention, are given by way of illustration only, since various changes and modifications within the spirit and scope of the invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art from this detailed description.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0008] FIG. 1 depicts a conventional container, commonly known as a trash dumpster, which is representative of containers in widespread use in industrial and commercial activities;

[0009] FIG. 2A illustrates one aspect of an embodiment of the inventive container and also represents an alternative embodiment directed to a ramp which is suitable for use with the container or dumpster;

[0010] FIG. 2B illustrates one possible arrangement which includes a storage rack;

[0011] FIG. 2C illustrates side and top views of alternative means for attachment of the ramp to the dumpster bed;

[0012] FIG. 2D illustrates an alternative spring-loaded pin usable as a means for attachment of the ramp to the dumpster bed;

[0013] FIG. 2E depicts, in right-hand and left-hand sections, two alternative arrangements of holes through which the ramp may be attached to the dumpster bed;

[0014] FIGS. 3A and 3B illustrate top and side views, respectively, of another aspect of the first embodiment of the inventive container which includes two ramps with an adjustable separation distance; and

[0015] FIG. 4 illustrates a ramp constructed to be “integral” with the dumpster bed.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0016] The first embodiment of the invention will now be discussed with reference to the Drawings. Turning now to FIG. 1, a conventional container 100, e.g., a trash dumpster or receptacle, is shown which illustrates one problem overcome by the claimed invention. That is, the bottom or bed 110 of container 100 is seen to be at a height H above the surface of the ground 120 upon which container 100 rests. Since, for structural reasons, the bottom 110 of container 100 is, in most cases, unable to be located flush or near flush with the ground, carrying or wheeling objects, e.g., debris, into the container requires a step up into the container, and a step down on the way out of the container. This difference in height can be difficult to compensate for, particularly when using wheeled vehicles, such as a wheelbarrow or front-end loader.

[0017] FIG. 2A illustrates one embodiment of the invention. Although not determinative of the overall inventive concept, steel, aluminum, other metals, or fiberglass and composite materials may be used to construct the various components of a commercial embodiment. Container 200 includes bottom 210 and a plurality of sides 221 suitably arranged to define a space or volume within the container 200. An opening on at least one of the sides is present, with or without an optional door (not shown), which allows entry into container 200. First transition element 240, for example, spans an interior bottom surface or dumpster bed 215 of the container adjacent to opening 230 and a surface 250 external to the container when first transition element 240 is in an operating position. First transition element 240 provides a step-free pathway which extends between dumpster bed 215 and the external surface 250, which may be, for example, the ground or a flooring surface.

[0018] In a further aspect of the invention, illustrated in FIG. 2B storage rack 270 may be arranged either underneath bottom 210, or on one side 221 (not shown) of trash dumpster 200. Storage rack 270 is adapted to receive and stow first transition element or ramp 240 while in a non-operating or stowage position, and may be constructed from angled and/or bar stock material.. For safety, restraining means 280, such as a chain, length of wire, wire rope, or a bolt or pin, for example, ensures that first transition element 240 selectively remains in the stowed position while the dumpster 200 is being transported, for example.

[0019] In a further aspect of this embodiment, and referring back to FIG. 2A, first transition element 240 is preferably connected to bottom 210 of container 200 near an end portion of dumpster 200. In this embodiment, transition element or ramp 240 preferably includes first part 241 connected to second part 242 by a hinge 245, wherein first part 241 is adapted to overlay an end portion of the interior bottom surface 215 of container 200, and wherein second part 242 is thicker than first part 241.

[0020] Second part 242 may include strengthening means, e.g., side plates 244, for stiffening second part 241, and which may be arranged along two edge portions of second part 242, for example. The strengthening means 244 may be tapered at the end which contacts ground 250 to improve stability. Even more preferably, second part 242 includes a skid-resistant safety material, such as diamond tread 246 and/or grip strut 247 for improved traction and safety, including drainage of water from the ramp through holes in the ramp surface. As an alternative stowage position, the second part or bottom portion of the ramp may be upwardly rotated into a position essentially perpendicular to the bottom of the container.

[0021] In order to better ensure stability of ramp 240 during operation, attachment means are preferably provided to connect first transition element 240 to interior bottom surface 215 while first transition element 240 is in an operating position. As shown in FIG. 2A, the attachment means may include one or more hooks 248A adapted to engage corresponding engagement hole 248B in interior bottom surface 215 of container 200.

[0022] Hooks 248A may be bent from flat or round bar stock metal, for example. Alternatively, as shown in FIG. 2C, the attachment means may include pin 248C extending through holes 248B aligned through both first transition element 240 and interior bottom surface 215 of container 200. As illustrated in FIG. 2D, pin 248C may be a spring-loaded pin 248C′ having lifting eye 248C″ on an exposed end.

[0023] Further, and as shown in FIG. 2E, engagement hole 248B in first transition element 240 may be a slotted elongated hole 248B′ which allows movement of first transition element 240 with respect to interior bottom surface 215 of container 200.

[0024] In a further aspect, in addition to or in lieu of restraining means 280, pin 248C may be arranged so as to be capable of restraining first transition element 240 in the operating position, as well as in a stowed, non-operational position within storage rack 270. Further, pin 248C may include at least one through-piece 248C1 extending essentially perpendicularly through cylindrical body 248C2 of pin 248C, as shown in FIG. 2C. To accommodate this type of pin, and to provide a locking function, engagement hole 248B in first transition element 240 preferably has a key-like shape 248B″ portrayed in the right-hand portion of FIG. 2E, which essentially allows registration with a cross-section of pin 248C.

[0025] In another aspect of this embodiment depicted in FIG. 3A and 3B, a two-tracked ramp for container 300 (not shown for clarity) further includes second transition element 390 connected to first transition element 340 via coupling element 396, parts of which are connected together by hinge 345 which, in turn, connects to the bottom of the dumpster. Thus, the dual pathway ramp allows a vehicle, e.g., a front-end loader (“Bobcat®” or other type), to enter into at least a portion of the container to dump debris into container 300. Second transition element 390, similar to or the same as first transition element 240 depicted in FIG. 2A, preferably spans the dumpster bed adjacent to its opening and the ground surface 250 when first and second transition elements 340, 390 are in the operating position.

[0026] To accommodate laterally spaced wheeled or tracked vehicles, second transition element 390 is preferably arranged laterally separated from, and essentially parallel to first transition element 340 to define space 395 therebetween. Preferably, a means for adjustment is arranged to adjust the lateral separation 395 between first and second transition elements 340, 390. Such adjustment means preferably includes adjustable spacer element 397, which may be formed from nested telescoping tubes 397A and 397B, which have different, cooperative diameters so that one tube nests within the other. Circular or non-circular cross-sectioned tubes may be used, and the separation distance may be set by fixing the nested tubes 397A and 397B together using bolts or pins (not shown), for example, through holes 397C.

[0027] Turning now to FIG. 4, an alternative aspect of this embodiment is illustrated. In this alternative aspect, container 400 (not shown for clarity) includes first transition element 440 preferably connected to the bottom of container 400 by hinge 445 at an end of first transition element 440 which is separated from the opening of container 400. That is, the ramp or first transition element 440 is essentially “integral” with dumpster bottom 410, allowing the surface of the ramp, in a non-operating position, to lie essentially flush with dumpster bed 415 of container 400. When released into an operating position, i.e., a position in which a person, wheelbarrow, or other wheeled or tracked vehicle can enter container 400 via ramp 440, an end of the ramp or first transition element 440 nearest the open end of container 400 may be lowered to the ground 450, to provide a transition piece having a step-free pathway from the exterior of container 400 onto bottom 410 of container 400.

[0028] Although the exact dimensions of the above-described containers and ramps are not necessarily critical to an understanding or practice of the invention, various component thicknesses, widths, heights, etc., and specific material characteristics may be determined by a person having skill in the art, in light of the specific application and function desired, and the dynamic weight to be supported, while accounting for appropriate mechanical safety factors of weight support, structural flexure, and stress/strain.

[0029] For example, the width of ramp 240 may be selected to be in the range of 12-24 inches, and the overall length of ramp 240 may be in the range of approximately 3-4 feet, or more, depending on the relative size of the container upon which the ramp is to be installed. Plating used in a commercial embodiment may include ¼-inch aluminum diamond plate, while side plate 244 may be ¼-inch aluminum bar stock. Hinge 245 may be a so-called “piano hinge” extending across all or a portion of the width of ramp 240.

[0030] In second, related embodiment of the invention, a ramp suitable for attachment to, and use with conventional trash container 100 in an aftermarket sale scenario, is represented by first transition element 240, as previously illustrated in FIG. 2A. For brevity, and to avoid unnecessary redundancy, reference to the previous description of the first embodiment is made to provide the disclosure of ramp 240, standing apart from container 200.

[0031] It will be obvious that the disclosed invention may be varied in many ways. Such variations are not to be regarded as a departure from the spirit and scope of the invention, and all such modifications as would be obvious to one skilled in the art are intended to be included within the scope of the following claims. The breadth and scope of the present invention is therefore limited only by the scope of the appended claims and their equivalents.