January 5, 2021
Lee GouldThe science and art of winter maintenance are not readily apparent, which supports the irony for those that believe ensuring safety through the colder months is simple. Indeed, so many people take snow and ice removal for granted, merely thinking it is just a question of shoveling or plowing snow away. There’s nothing simple about taking on the responsibility to help businesses and others stay open when others would like to stay home and wait for a melt. Is there any denying then that winter maintenance professionals are first responders at these times?

The increasing challenges experienced by winter maintenance professionals are driven by two key factors. The first is a poor knowledge of best practices in winter maintenance. The second is the perceptions surrounding liability. Both of these variables play into the other and not always in positive ways. The knowledge gap and safety concerns are being used to support a wide-variety of conversations and even needed legislative changes. For example, New Hampshire has adopted the Green SnowPro program which provides indemnification from slip and fall claims below the gross negligence threshold for both contractors, facility owners/operators and others that participate in the program. The legal relief offered through the New Hampshire legislation is predicated on professional knowledge and practice. Participants demonstrate their knowledge through a training and certification process that is required to be put into practice. Putting professionalism into practice, i.e. reasonable efforts to maintain safety, is determined through solid documentation. Among other things, winter maintenance professionals are strongly encouraged to maintain records surrounding the following:
  • Training for all personnel.
  • Equipment calibration.
  • Site planning that includes addressing potential ‘ice build-up areas’ such as low spots in parking lots and leaky downspouts.
  • The date and time of all winter maintenance activities.
  • Weather and facility conditions: What were the ground temperatures? Was the parking lot full of vehicles?
  • The anti-icing and de-icing activities utilized, including any products used.
In short, winter maintenance professionals and facility operators should seek to collect and maintain detailed records surrounding efforts to maintain a property. Often, it is the record-keeping that supports a due diligence defense should a slip and fall claim arise Beyond the obvious legal advantages of solid documentation, record-keeping can also help to build and grow the contractor/facility owner relationship by demonstrating professional knowledge and practice. For the same reason, documentation can help support procurement efforts.

Lastly, documenting helps to ensure that Best Management Practices (BMPs) are being utilized. We know from studies that BMPs positively help to reduce the impact winter maintenance operations have on facilities and the environment, while often maintaining or even improving safety. Documenting winter maintenance efforts is a win-win for winter maintenance contractors.

Those wishing to learn more about the unique programs and services offered by the Smart About Salt Council (SASC) are encouraged to visit www.smartaboutsalt.com, where you can register for training priced at $375 (less than the price of a cup of coffee a day) and “Register Intent to Certify” for $226.

Lee Gould
Executive Director, Smart About Salt Council