August 2, 2022
Moving the snow and ice industry forward
Work continues on a national standard
BY GERALD BOOT
The snow industry in Canada… is it moving forward?
As we reflect on the snow and ice sector in Canada and how it has progressed in the past 40 years, we need to ask ourselves, is it better? How do we continue to improve?
I have been in this industry for over 40 years and the number one problem 40 years ago is still the number one problem today. Slip and fall claims continue to occur with the same result: insurance companies pay out based on their high costs of challenging a claim. If a claim goes to discovery, that is about as far as it goes. Contractors rarely find out what happens after the discovery, let alone the status of their claim, even if it doesn’t get to discovery. Contractors are frustrated and snow and ice contractors are referred to as “the bad snow guys,” since it’s the snow guys that cause premiums to increase.
Contractors are left scratching their head as to what the insurance company is doing with their claim and why they are not proactively fighting claims. Often enough they do not find out how much money the claim was settled for.
So are things getting better? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? In Ontario there is now a 60-day statute of limitations for submitting a slip and fall claim. Hopefully other provinces will follow suit with similar legislation. Contractors knowing their claims status by the first of June at the latest is a huge improvement for when an insurance policy comes up for renewal. The best policy renewal dates are between the first of June and the first of September. At that point, you should have knowledge of the previous season’s claims.
In the fall of 2020, stakeholders in the Canadian snow and ice management industry approached the CSA Group — a not-for-profit standards development organization — with a request to consider the development of a national standard on snow and ice management. Stakeholders identified three key reasons to support the request: (a) ensuring public and worker safety, (b) rising liability and insurance costs, and (c) managing risk from snow and ice management practices to nearby ecosystems. CSA Group agreed the proposal had merit for further investigation, noting that National Standards of Canada (NSC) are not developed to specifically address stakeholder liability and insurance costs, but are one tool that might assist in mitigating these considerations for stakeholders.
Many thanks to our national association, Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA), who funded the study, which included a consultation process involving key informant interviews. Four key issues were identified:
1. Liability: Snow and ice contractors are required to bear all the liability for slip and falls.
2. Training and competency: There is no formalized requirement for contractors to meet a minimum level of training or competency. There are many “fly-by-night” operators who don’t provide a consistent and professional level of service.
3. Environmental impacts: The lack of understanding about the science of salt is creating significant environmental impacts as salt is overused.
4. Regulatory framework(s): No statutory framework was identified that specifically regulates what the industry must do to protect the environment and keep the public safe.
A virtual workshop was held where invited stakeholders validated the findings of the key informant interviews. A range of documents that could serve as resources for a potential seed document for a national snow and ice standard were identified. A high-level table of contents for a potential standard was also received.
In May of 2022 the CSA Group produced a Workshop Agreement on Assessing the Need for a Snow and Ice Management Standard of Canada. This document can be found at csagroup.org/article/the-need-for-a-snow-and-ice-management-standard.
It is clear there is a need for a National Snow and Ice Standard. To that end, the CSA was approached to facilitate the process. They indicated earlier this year that due to their current work schedule they could not consider it at that time. We will approach them again at the end of the summer (2022) to find out if they will be able to take the lead in producing a Snow and Ice Standard for Canada.
Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Absolutely. I believe the ball is rolling. Will it take another 40 years? Not if I can help it
Gerald BootChair, Landscape Ontario’s Snow and Ice Sector Group
Gerald Boot CLHM (Certified Landscape Horticulturist Manager) is President, CEO and Founder of Boot’s Landscaping and Maintenance in Richmond Hill, Ont. Gerald is a Past-President of Landscape Ontario and a current member of the Landscape Trades Advisory Committee.