Nationwide, the COVID-19 threat has not subsided, however, most businesses – including those offering snow and ice management services – have moved forward the best they can in preparation for Winter 2020-21. What sort of impact has the pandemic had on contractors seeking ISO certification?
Probably the biggest impact to the snow and ice management industry would be the sense of caution and the fear of the unknown. We can’t gather face-to-face to talk or meet in groups. Most industry summits/conferences/seminars have been postponed, cancelled or held in a virtual setting. However, the ability to meet in person is so resourceful and needed.
Is this a good time to seek ISO certification and why?
Of course, it is a good time for snow professionals to earn their ISO certification. As the pandemic appeared to be weakening this past spring, by early June I started receiving calls from snow professionals with downtime asking questions about becoming certified and getting ready for the upcoming season.
For those contractors seeking ISO certification, how have you been able to assist them over the recent months? Please describe how the process works if you’re forced to do it remotely.
I didn’t approach it as being “forced,” per se. The first thing I did was call my friend and industry leader, Jim Anderson, and asked if I could offer to certify and audit remotely, knowing I had clients booked during the pandemic. As you know, Jim steered the ASCA team on writing the Industry Standards for the professional snow and ice management industry. He thought it was a great idea, I also checked with Smithers, who is the third-party registrar, and then with another business associate, Aaron Birdseye, who is an independent contractor in the IT and surveillance profession for his advise on which secure video conferencing that would be the most appropriate for this type professional meeting. The process runs very smoothly, just like I am sitting in a client’s conference room. I ask my questions, all documents are safely uploaded to me, and it saves the client money. And I have been offering a $500 COVID discount to all clients this year.
Has the pandemic added any additional challenges to those contractors pursuing ISO certification? For example, have protective, anti-coronavirus measures been added to the processes and procedures that need to be documented?
I have not encountered any new challenges. I haven’t met new contractors face to face and shook hands with them, but we talk on the phone and video conference. As far as adding anti-coronavirus measures or any new safety measures to processes and procedures, that is a plus for any client considering to sign with an ISO certified snow professional rather than one that is not certified. Being ISO certified assures the client they are getting exactly what was stated, written and then carried out by the contractor. Health and wellness are very important policies that contractors initiate and set guidelines for their snow employees.
You’ve been offering your service to the professional snow and ice management industry for some time now. During your tenure, as the ISO process and the value of certification has become better understood and realized, how has your role in assisting companies changed or evolved? For example, how has the focus or the topics of your consulting with contractors changed?
My role in the snow industry sure has become better understood with each new client. I speak at industry forums, write articles and have been invited on to speak about ISO on industry podcasts. The more contractors that understand the importance of certification and share the olive branch the better the industry becomes. Snow contractors don’t just push snow, they are first responders of safety to their communities. And they are a very tough breed who won’t stop or give up until the job is completed correctly.
I’m a contractor considering ISO certification, what are the minimum criteria about my operation that I need to meet or have a handle on before I reach out to a professional like yourself for assistance? Or, should reaching out to you be the first step? And if so, why?
One should have basic knowledge of Industry Standards. Industry certifications help, as well as work experience and having seasoned professionals to perform the work outlined in winter service contacts. The more experience and knowledge in any profession one holds will help you succeed when seeking ISO certification.
From your experience, what is the most misunderstood aspect about ISO certification and why?
This topic always comes up at industry forums and conversations. A contractor cannot lose their business or employees if they answer a question wrong. There are no wrong answers. When I conduct an audit, I ask questions based on how a contractor runs their business. I do not tell any contractor how to run their business. The contractor tells me what they do in keeping with industry guidelines and that is how I write their quality manual.
Snow and ice management companies that were some of the initial adopters of ISO certification have now begun or are going through the renewal process. Do you assist in the renew process? If so, how have their needs changed as they pursue renewal?
I assist in all aspects of ISO certification and renewal. This includes: review of documents, procedures, maps, training, incident reporting, inspections and updating the contractor on any changes.