Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Legislative hot spots to watch

SIMA leads charge for impactful reform at the state level.

By Martin Tirado, CAE
Winter was frigid at times, but proposed and pending legislation impacting snow and ice companies has been heating up. Here’s a summary of current activities and the role SIMA is taking on them.

New York “call-in” pay

Since our February Snow Business report, the New York Department of Labor issued a regulatory ruling that will impact employee schedule planning for companies, including those performing snow and ice services. Essentially, if someone cancels a scheduled shift with less than 72 hours’ notice, an employer must pay the employee for 4 hours of work that day at minimum wage.

SIMA submitted a letter based on feedback from member service providers highlighting the ways this regulation will hurt their business growth and hiring. Unfortunately, this regulatory change appears to be set to start this spring; although SIMA is supporting a green industry-led legislative coalition that has the support of some New York senators to exempt businesses with 500 or fewer employees from the regulation. The concern for those outside of New York is that this could be a catalyst for equivalent regulatory change in other states and provinces.

Partnerships for progress
SIMA joined several groups to sponsor the New York State Turfgrass association lobbying day in February.

SIMA is also collaborating with Landscape Ontario and the Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association to actively pursue legislation that models the New Hampshire legislation passed in 2013. This legislation provides for voluntary salt applicator training with the benefit that those who complete training and continuing education are provided liability protection for themselves and the properties they service. This is markedly different than “pass the baton” legislation where service providers and property owners are battling each other over who is liable for slip and fall injuries.

New Hampshire’s Green SnowPro training and certification has proven to be a successful method in lowering salt applied to paved surfaces while providing for liability protections that applicators and properties need. Additionally, the value of training is gaining momentum. Recently, the Planning Board of Windham, NH, implemented new construction plans that require winter maintenance to be performed by NH Green SnowPro-certified contractors.

SIMA’s leadership in salt application research is ongoing and led by industry expert Phill Sexton, CSP, of WIT Advisers in conjunction with the technology power of Viaesys. This research provides the essential foundation of knowledge in salt application that can lead to change.

Shaping the future
SIMA has remained actively engaged in supporting efforts beyond Ontario and Minnesota. Among others, Virginia, Vermont, Maine and local areas of New York are considering models similar to the New Hampshire Green SnowPro training and liability protection. That’s a triple win: Service providers enhance their training and are viewed as professionals with more knowledge; the relationship between service providers and properties is enhanced; and an immediate need is met to better protect the green infrastructure and clean water as a natural resource.

Legislative actions are gaining speed, and the most effective solutions will be those that protect service providers while challenging them to obtain the necessary education to be considered experts in snow and ice management. The industry will put itself at risk if it only seeks to regulate itself with standards or legislative activities. A more comprehensive model that engages the facilities management industry, along with all other stakeholders, is the way forward. We must seek shared liability, trust and reasonable expectations on all sides.

Martin Tirado, CAE, is chief executive officer of SIMA. Email him at

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

SIMA members have access to Library exclusives

The SIMA Library is home to hundreds of articles, including some reserved just for viewing by SIMA members. We recently added 10 articles focusing on operations, human resources and personal development:
  • How to properly stake sites for winter operations
  • A seven-part series on personal growth and development
  • Best practices for managing spills
  • How to get started in liquids without breaking the bank
  • Ins and outs of insurance terms
  • Best practices for corrosion prevention and maintenance
  • Preseason sidewalk training
  • Understanding salt brine
  • How to build a bonus/incentive program
  • Systems reviews for continuous improvement
These stories can be viewed by logging in at Our goal is to start adding new content, including video, more consistently to help members obtain more from their membership. If there are articles on specific topics you’d like to see developed, please email Editorial Director Cheryl Higley at

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Raising the bar in snow and ice

SIMA provides free industry best practices and standards

By Martin Tirado, CAE
In October 2017, SIMA mailed 30,000 readers of Snow Business magazine in North America our Purchasing Snow & Ice Management: Quality RFP Creation and Best Practices. It’s the newest publication in our reservoir of resources that will become industry standards. And it’s free (download here) for anyone interested in reading and implementing it into their business practices. 

The Purchasing Snow & Ice Management document is rich in detail and specificity on the essential components of what should be included in the final agreement that properties have with snow and ice service providers, such as level of service, how to build and define a scope of work, contractual terms and definitions and more. Similar to other SIMA best practice publications, this document was developed with input from a broad and diverse stakeholder group, not just service providers. Property owners and managers can use and adopt the contents to the same extent that service providers can. That’s a win-win business proposition that enables long-term trust and value.

As this best practice document is used by more professionals every year, it naturally becomes an industry standard. The same can be said of all of SIMA’s best practices, which are free for download at

SIMA creates its best practices for free to serve the needs of the professional snow and ice industry. We will continue to do so and are committed to the following principles of best practices and standards:

Open Access. Guides are available to all industry stakeholders at no cost, regardless of whether they are members of SIMA.

Education. SIMA spearheads educational partnerships and communication programs to help all parties adopt best practices.

Comprehensive. Best practices documents are reviewed by a large group of industry stakeholders representing multiple areas of expertise.

Quality Control & Transparency. The best practices documents are living documents, and suggestions, recommendations or concerns can be submitted online at

The feedback SIMA has received on our best practices and standards has been positive in many ways. We will continue to lead with professionalism as we expand our inventory of industry best practices and standards. Our next step will be further developed at our 2018 Season Opener event, tentatively scheduled for September in Milwaukee, WI. An announcement on the exact date, hotel location and agenda is coming soon. For now, please download, read and share the snow and ice industry best practices and standards, the glossary of terms, and best practices checklists. More are on the way. 

Martin Tirado, CAE, is chief executive officer of SIMA. Email him at

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Symposium shakeup

Education offers more networking, in-depth workshops and roundtables

More networking. More peer-to-peer engagement. More in-depth workshops. More team building. Each of these represents a recurring suggestion of what attendees expect from the Best Show in Snow. SIMA is delivering with a revamped educational lineup for the 21st Annual Snow and Ice Symposium.

This year’s planning committee is shaking things up with new offerings that we believe will make this year’s show the best yet.

Our goal was to expand the education tracks to appeal to a broader audience so that more people will benefit from attending the Symposium. From people with boots on the ground to in the boardroom, our hope is that the changes we’ve implemented will deliver additional value for your investment.

All of the details can be found at, but following are a few of the program’s new highlights:

Best Practices Skills Competition. In lieu of a traditional pre-conference event on Tuesday, June 26, we’re encouraging companies to bring their team to take part in a head-to-head competition with other companies. The team-building event will see how well your teams understand industry best practices in safety, operations, calibration and site management.

Workshop Wednesday. Traditionally, the Symposium features one or two deepdive workshops on a targeted topic. This year, we’re dedicating most of Wednesday to eight 2-hour sessions focused on a wider variety of topics. Attendees will be able to choose from two of the eight sessions. Even better? The workshops will be included in your registration fee. This year’s topics:
  • Snow Operations Audits
  • Equipment and Maintenance Management
  • Managing Risk and Liability
  • Recruiting, Hiring and Retaining Talent
  • Job Costing and Estimating
  • Applying Enterprise Risk Management Theory
  • Time Management and Productivity
Role-based Roundtables. Following the Wednesday workshops, we’re taking a page from our Season Opener playbook and creating in-depth roundtables focused on specific roles in a snow and ice management company. Attendees will engage with others in similar roles to discuss a variety of topics and trends important to them:
  • CEO to CEO
  • Operations Management and Techniques
  • Billing, Administration and Service Verification
  • Sales and Negotiations
Pro Talks - Life and Leadership in the Snow Industry. Once you achieve a certain level of success in snow and ice, many of the traditional educational sessions may be less pertinent, leaving some attendees to wonder: "What’s in it for me?" Patterned after the popular TED talks, we’ve asked six speakers to share insights and captivating stories that will resonate with attendees at every stage of their career, but especially those CEOs, business owners and upper-level managers who are looking for self-improvement and fresh perspectives.

Tech Talks & New Products Pavilion. One of the biggest draws of the Symposium is our trade show. This year, attendees will be exposed to 140,000 square feet of the newest products and services, all focused on snow and ice management. To complement the trade show, we’re adding a new products pavilion that will allow attendees to see the newest products on the market. In addition, we’re bringing education back to the floor with 12 Tech Talks, presented by a supplier with subject matter expertise (non-product specific):
  • Sidewalk Management Optimization
  • Route Management Technology
  • Weather Forecasting and Documentation
  • Plow Technology that Optimizes Production and Salt Use
  • Spreader Technology that Optimizes Production and Salt Use
  • Salt Use Optimization: Implementing Brine & Liquids
  • Chloride Alternatives: Solutions to Reduce Reliance on Salt
  • Service Verification
  • Equipment Maintenance and Repairs
  • Small Company Solutions
  • Site Engineering Solutions
  • Safety & PPE
That’s a lot of change for one year, but don’t worry! Our most popular Symposium events remain: Snack & Chats, networking receptions, the closing event and sessions focused on all areas of operations are returning. I encourage you to take a look at the Symposium brochure and start plotting your path to Cleveland. It’s going to be a great show. We can’t wait to see you!

Visit for registration, a schedule of events and more.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Best Practices course delivers free equipment, operations training

'This growing body of resources currently includes 15 documents available exclusively to SIMA members as part of our commitment to deliver outstanding value.'
Even during the season, it doesn’t hurt to review best practices to keep your minds fresh for the next event. SIMA’s Operational Equipment & Safety Best Practices course can help members keep training and safety front and center.
This growing body of resources currently includes 15 documents available exclusively to SIMA members as part of our commitment to deliver outstanding value.
These checklists and quick reference cards can be downloaded, printed and used as part of a comprehensive training program.
Looking toward 2018, our goal is to continue to add resources to this course, allowing our member companies access to free training and topics that will help ensure safer, more efficient operations. 
Current resources available for download:
  • Checklists
    • Pre-trip plow and spreader safety inspections
    • Snow site engineering planning
    • Snow vehicle hazards
    • Pre-storm equipment review
    • Preseason risk assessment
    • Snow kit contents
  • Quick Cards
    • Fuel storage for cold weather
    • Safe operations of heavy equipment in cold weather
    • PPE for snow and ice management
    • Snow shoveling safety
    • Snow blower hazards
    • Equipment maintenance
  • Resources
    • Salt brine equipment basics
    • Incident report template (English and Spanish)
    • Safety best practices
    • Snow plow pump troubleshooting
If you have a topic for consideration, email Brian Birch at The course is available for download here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

SIMA adds DVDs to training video series


Remember 2001? It was a year of many exciting things...Harry Potter, the Segway, the iPod, *NSYNC. And don’t forget...SIMA launched its first training video: Basic Snowplowing Techniques. After the initial success of that video, SIMA produced six more, and they became the de facto industry standard for basic and refresher snow training. But the snow industry has grown and changed. Our videos began to have a certain retro feel and needed a revamp. Instead of trying to redo them one by one over a long period of time, SIMA completely redesigned them all at once. The new SIMA Training Video Series, which includes six videos, was launched in late summer 2017, and includes:
  • Snowplowing Safety & Preparation: This video is designed to introduce snowplow operators to basic snowplowing principles and general techniques, including preseason preparations and checks, transporting the plow and general plowing tips and techniques.
  • Essential Snowplowing Techniques: This video concentrates on commercial snow removal operations. It assumes the operator has received basic training, knows safety issues and has experience in clearing driveways and other properties. It includes equipment and safety, techniques and obstacles, and plow scenarios.
  • NEW! Snow Site Engineering and Planning: This video walks through the process of planning and implementing a site engineering strategy; to increase safety and efficiency; and to identify key obstacles, priorities and hazards prior to the snow season.
  • Containment Snow Plows and Pushers: This video provides practical and strategic operations, including benefits of using a containment plow, operator safety and troubleshooting on-site issues.
  • Sidewalk Clearing of Snow and Ice: This video highlights key safety issues and techniques needed to use shovels and snow blowers. It includes guidelines for dressing appropriately, health and wellness tips, shoveling techniques, and snowblower safety and techniques.
  • Skid Steer Loaders and Compact Equipment: This video covers a range of topics, including site application, attachments, techniques, safety, training and preventive maintenance. Other topics include equipment advantages, common mistakes and tips and bidding help.
Initially, SIMA planned to only offer the videos via streaming in the SIMA Training Center since it is the best, most cost-effective way for us to distribute these training tools. However, after much discussion and feedback from our members, we decided to also provide DVDs. We ran our first press of DVDs (all six videos for one low price) in October, and they are available for purchase now.

Training video series at-a-glance
  • Number of training videos 6
  • All new video footage, including use of drones
  • Residential and commercial items addressed
  • Available streaming in the SIMA Training Center, on DVD or both
  • Includes simple quizzes for training documentation
  • Most videos are available in Spanish
  • Average length of each video 30 minutes 
To learn more about each video, to see a preview or to purchase, visit

Monday, December 4, 2017

Workforce work to be done

'Our goal is to keep the conversation going and to help our members make progress in the area of workforce development and retention.'

By Brian Birch, CAE
Here’s what we know about our industry’s workforce: Finding and retaining good employees remains the No. 1 challenge. That’s the official word based on feedback SIMA was able to collect prior to the September 2017 Season Opener. 

Of course, this issue is bigger than just the snow industry; most service-related industries are struggling. As one of thousands of trade associations, SIMA is wrestling with the true impact our association can have on such a widespread issue. We felt the Season Opener, with its focus on recruitment and talent management, was a good place to start.

Prior to the event, SIMA deployed a simple survey designed to solicit feedback in two broad areas:
  1. Labor recruitment. How do you recruit labor for snow, and what technologies/tools are useful in that process?
  2. Careers. What benefits and areas should be considered in an effort to keep long-term employees, and which of these are the most crucial?
Attendees were also asked to provide any organizational charts, employee pay grades/levels (structure, not compensation) and role descriptions for snow-specific work. After repeated attempts, only one attendee shared that information. This was insightful, since it showed us the challenge is twofold:
  1. Many companies struggle with organizing and keeping updated organizational charts, pay grade standards and even role descriptions; 
  2. Our members consider this proprietary information and hence are reluctant to share.
During the Season Opener event, more than 50 professionals engaged in peer-to-peer roundtables on labor and careers, sharing of real-world scenarios that have worked and brainstorming ideas for improved attraction and retention of employees. We consolidated the data collected into a final report, which was emailed to all attendees in early October. If you were unable to attend and would like a copy, email

Potential workforce initiatives
Our goal is to keep the conversation going and to help our members make progress in the area of workforce development and retention. Here are some possible paths SIMA could take. We would love your input. 
  1. Snow Compensation & Benefits Report: Many industries provide data-driven averages of compensation levels (salaried and non-salaried), as well as benefits (health care, retirement, etc.) for various job roles. SIMA could work with a third-party entity that specializes in this research to conduct such a study every two to three years.
  2. Snow Organizational Charts and Roles/Responsibilities Library: Little research has been done on roles and responsibilities in the industry. SIMA could solicit submissions of organizational charts and roles/responsibilities to build a library that more definitively identifies positions essential to the success of a snow and ice management company. All reported information would be analyzed to find common types of structures, and all reported information would be anonymous. This could be compiled into a report or searchable database for SIMA members. The project could also take the form of a written report with a series of examples, coupled with policies/tips and templates for employee reviews and compensation discussions. 
  3. Best Practices in Snow Recruitment: SIMA could work with the Best Practices & Standards Committee to select best-in-class snow companies to create a standardized set of recommendations/policies for labor recruitment, including sources, technologies, drug/background check policies/procedures, and employee referral program policies and administration.
  4. Snow Industry Help Wanted/Jobs Board: SIMA could implement an online tool that enables snow professionals to post help wanted/job openings, including connecting contractors to subcontractors. SIMA could partner with industry-related organizations in this area.
We invite you to share your input about which options, if any, would be helpful to you, by emailing