Thursday, December 20, 2012
Best practices matter in the snow industry
By Phill Sexton
How can consumers and providers of snow & ice management services identify those that are industry professionals versus those that are not, particularly when there is no mandated industry education or licensing? As a way to help snow & ice management professionals, SIMA has developed the Best Practices Checklist, which can be found at www.sima.org/bestpractices.
Why do best practices matter in any profession? By definition, a best practice is a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark. In addition, a "best" practice can evolve to become better as improvements are discovered. SIMA’s Best Practices Checklist addresses specific criteria related to safety, liability and risk management along with the planning, execution and quality of services. Granted there are many potential best practices in the industry, but we've identified a set of basic, core values that are key:
Health, Safety and the Environment – Companies that encourage a safe and healthy work environment as a best practice are proven to be more successful and profitable than those that do not. Safe companies invest in programs that include educating & training employees on personal health and protection, proper reporting of incidents, the awareness of salt conservation and salt’s impact on the environment.
Insurance – Much of the unfair pressures of competition and downward pressures of pricing are related to people and companies that don’t include the proper insurance as a cost of doing business. Having the proper insurance coverage is a critical best practice to include as a cost of providing the service. Don’t offer the service if you aren’t willing to be properly insured.
Cycle Time – Knowing a particular site and client’s expectations for when they expect to be safely ‘open for businesses’ is the true best practice of how to define cycle time. You can’t determine the capacity of resources necessary for a particular client or route without first being able to define how soon your client expects safe conditions in any type of storm scenario.
Capacity – Many snow contractors sell their services as almost 'snow insurance', meaning their customers pay for the ability to respond and manage risk when a storm hits. That readiness is really a capacity issue. Capacity has several factors, including labor, equipment, materials and cash flow. Snow & ice management services are sold in several different models, but no matter what price model is agreed upon, the same level of service expectations and direct costs exist to provide a minimum and constant state of readiness. No matter how the contract is sold, a best practice for providing dedicated capacity is requesting customers make minimum payment(s) to recover the costs of overhead. This is particularly true in time and material markets where it may not snow at all in a given year and where clients expect you to be prepared for every type of snow & ice scenario.
Snow Site Engineering and Response Planning – Snow professionals develop plans on how to prioritize areas, which define areas that should be cleared first, second, third, etc. This is a particularly helpful best practice when responding to heavier storms or blizzard conditions. When identifying priority snow removal areas, pros include items such as the location of wheel chair access ramps, fire hydrants, emergency exits, emergency egresses, and access to utilities. Snow site engineering plans also identify where the snow is to be located and piled relevant to line-of-site issues, handicap parking areas, and drainage locations.
Experience and consistent implementation of these best practices and others are some of what define the best in the industry. For more information on best practices training and tools, visit www.sima.org/resources. Download the Best Practices Checklist at no charge by linking directly to www.sima.org/bestpractices.
Phill Sexton is the Director of Education & Outreach for SIMA. Contact him at Phill@sima.org.