Thursday, October 10, 2013

Alphabet soup of certification

'SIMA continues to represent the leading professional standard in snow, and we have some exciting new announcements coming this fall.'

By Martin Tirado, CAE
Does this scenario sound familiar? I recently received a business card from a person who had five acronyms after his name, none of which I recognized. These ABCs of of designations may look impressive on a business card, but it begs the question as to whether they are a testament to a person's expertise in a field. How hard (or easy) is it to obtain them? And, most importantly, do they matter to consumers or the public? There generally are four types of designations:

  • Licensure is typically administered through government entities and are legal mandates designed to ensure that licensees have the minimal degree of competency in their field. Individuals usually have to meet eligibility requirements, pass an assessment test, and obtain ongoing requirements like education and renewal fees. (Example: RN/Registered Nurse)
  • Certification is a voluntary process through which an organization grants verification to an individual after confirming the applicant has met the eligibility requirements and passed an assessment. (Example: CSP/Certified Snow Professional)
  • Certificate programs are designed to educate or train individuals to achieve specific outcomes. A certificate is usually given after successful completion of the program, which may include an evaluation or assessment of the learner's achievement. Usually there are no designations or acronyms assigned and there are no ongoing requirements to maintain. (Example: Certificate in Project Management)
  • Accreditation recognizes an organization, system or program - not an individual. It also is voluntary and has ongoing requirements. (Example: Universities and hospitals are often accredited by a third-party entity)
Snow designations
Of these, the most common in the snow and green industries are certification programs. According to the book "Certification Simplified," by certification expert Mickie S. Rops, CAE, a certification program must:
  • Have ongoing requirements (called recertification or renewal) and a system for revoking when requirements are not met
  • Not have an integrated learning component offered and/or required by the certifying body
If a certification program does not meet these criteria, it is not a true certification program. In the snow & ice industry, for professionals such as SIMA members who serve the private industry, only one certification program exists: the CSP - Certified Snow Professional.

Certification done right
Certification programs become more complex because there are standards that certifying bodies should model. Organizations like ANSI (American National Standards Institute) administer accreditation programs for certification agencies. SIMA is focused on continuous improvement, and we are now modeling the CSP program to align more closely with these best practices.

We constantly invest time and resources in improvements through updated testing procedures, fair and transparent governance and policy changes. More importantly, we are working strategically to position CSP at the forefront of our outreach efforts. The insurance industry continues to see the value in the CSP, and our Outreach Committee is engaged in sharing the value of SIMA membership and certification to this audience.

Done right, certifications need thoughtful analysis of market conditions, market need, management, structure an oversight. Having a well-organized and crafted professional certification program is much more difficult that it may appear. SIMA continues to represent the leading professional standard in snow, and we have some exciting new announcements coming soon. Programs done right are worthy of adding to your professional resume. Contact SIMA to learn how to take the next step in your snow & ice management career.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Liability Protection is Here

'This may be a very good start, a true win-win for the environment and salt applicators.'

By Martin Tirado, CAE
Yes, you read the heading right. There is now liability protection for ‘salt applicators’ in the state of New Hampshire as of September 26, 2013. This was voted into law by the NH legislature this summer as part of their House Bill 2. The liability protection can be read in full in here in rulemaking RSA 508:22

Here’s a quick synopsis of how to obtain the protection:
  • Obtain a commercial applicator certification via training
  • Abide by best management practices taught in the training
  • Maintain accurate documentation, and keep them for up to 3 years
These requirements are not overly burdensome, and the fees involved are negligible considering the liability protection the legislation provides. It’s also voluntary, not mandated. This has been in the making for several years, as NH’s Department of Environmental Services have supported it based on increasing amounts of chloride levels in fresh water sources. New Hampshire wants better trained salt applicators, which they feel will lower overuse of salt application in winter weather.

When it comes to battling for improved liability protection for snow and ice providers, the environmental angle is a game-changer. The conversation with legislative and regulatory bodies can change from generalized tort reform to how snow and ice providers are part of the equation as stewards of the environment. Snow and ice professionals will go through appropriate training, learn the best management practices and apply these in snow and ice weather conditions. Chlorides will be used more effectively in snow and ice management, resulting in lower chloride levels in freshwater lakes and rivers, and application rates will be documented.

In turn, what we are asking for is protection from liability that costs our businesses the ability to purchase affordable, adequate coverage for the important work we do. Liability protection for other states and provinces isn’t a long shot to request; the state of NH has already granted it. Many NH contractors immediately have this protection as they have gone through the Green SnowPro Program, a training program implemented two years ago.

To date, the University of New Hampshire has been the only provider of salt applicator certification education. Training most likely will be available through other education providers, including SIMA. And as for the legislation, other government bodies will consider this if presented to the right people in the right way. Connecticut is already looking at New Hampshire as model language for new legislation. Other areas of North America are concerned about increasing chloride levels in fresh water and are searching for answers. This may be a very good start, a true win-win for the environment and salt applicators. SIMA is looking for states and provinces that are interested in passing similar legislation, as we are here to be an advocate for the operator/applicator.

More changes in regulations and laws on salt applications are surely coming, and in this case, that’s a good thing.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ignore PR at your peril

'No matter what size business, working to leverage good public relations and garner community exposure can be a major differentiator.'

By Brian Birch, CAE
We all challenge ourselves to get better at our profession. In the process, we tend to focus more on the things we are good at. In the snow industry, many professionals excel at planning, organizing and servicing customers. But there are other areas that may be neglected because they fall outside your comfort zone.

One such area is public relations. Many small business owners tend to discount the power of this function and struggle to justify its value. But generational shifts coupled with changing trends in technology and media are creating unique opportunities for even the smallest business to share its message. 

Last year SIMA launched a full-scale awareness campaign for the industry, called the Impact of Snow. In the process, we found that our industry's relationship to weather is extremely attractive to local and regional media outlets. This led to an unplanned but welcome addition to the resources available to SIMA members. 

During the campaign, we unveiled the official SIMA Member PR Toolkit, which includes news release and article templates, tips for engaging local and regional media, and creative ideas companies can use to gain quality PR exposure for their business.

No matter what size business, working to leverage good public relations and garner community exposure can be a major differentiator. Start thinking about the major trends and how you can become more adept at managing public relations more effectively. You can use the SIMA Member PR Toolkit to get started. Members can download it for free at

Brian Birch, CAE is chief operating officer of SIMA. Contact him at

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Plow Truck Central launches for snow removal industry

'We want to share helpful information tied to safety, maintenance, trends, and operations with work trucks in mind.'

By Brian Birch, CAE
The folks here at SIMA are excited for the launch of our newest section at…welcome to Plow Truck Central (PTC for short)!

This project has been in planning for the past year, and we are extremely grateful to the folks at Dodge RAM for working with us as the sponsor of PTC. Not only has Dodge RAM committed to sponsoring this section of the site, they are also active contributors, and will be providing helpful insights from manufacturing and engineering perspectives for all of you out there interested in managing snow with your work trucks.

The goal of PTC is simple; to share helpful content and information tied to safety, maintenance, trends, and operations with work trucks in mind. Feel free to share your comments about your experiences and insights as well. 

Each month for the next year we will publish timely content here at PTC, we hope you enjoy it and that it is helpful in your work as a snow professional. 

Check out the first 5 articles at Plow Truck Central by visiting

Brian Birch, CAE is the Chief Operating Officer for the Snow & Ice Management Association and can be reached at