Defining Snow and Ice Management

Columns - John's View

I've been pondering how snow contractors deal with change and it's forced me to formulate a new "vision" of what we actually do.

November 17, 2011

I've been pondering how snow contractors deal with change and it's forced me to formulate a new "vision" of what we actually do.

Discard the old definition that caters to the plow jockey stereotype. Instead, I offer we, more correctly, are "risk managers" charged with providing "safe environments" for our clients. We achieve this by utilizing "snowplowing techniques, deicing, sidewalk clearing and snow relocation." It's simple language that I've been using for some time now with my contractor clients.

Repositioning our viewpoint, and then bringing that refocused viewpoint to the forefront of our customers' minds might allow us to combat the feeling prospective customers have that the service we perform can be done by just about anybody. Educated snow contractors and even some educated customers know better.

One astute snow contractor I work with puts it this way: "Snow and ice management refers to every service related to the execution of snow and ice removal on a contracted location to limit risk to our clients and their customers. This includes planning and equipment management. Snow and ice management is risk mitigation for our clients. In most cases, a true snow and ice management professional will know more about the day-to-day operations and work required to successfully service a property than the hiring party or client. It is our obligation to assist and educate any potential or contracted client with our professional opinion on how and why their property needs to be serviced, the right way, during the winter season."

What do we provide for our clients? We mitigate risk by providing a safe environment for them and their customers through the timely completion of plowing, deicing and sidewalk clearing. Plowing and deicing are physical elements of our service, but we provide much more. We provide security for our clients. In short, we are an insurance policy for our clients.

Matt Peterson, from Mills Insurance – the company working with the Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA) – made this observation: "We are watching a clear behavior change in this industry as we speak. Snow and ice management professionals are motivated by higher insurance costs and living with realization that their own claims history reports are marching them down a path to self-destruction."

The industry must consider what we do adds to the safety of the general public, the workers of the site we are servicing and the occupants, residents or customers of the property owner. If the industry had the risk manager mind set during operations and planning, it will support the important steps of documentation, communication, contracts and exposure control first. This will lead to a safer finished product for the client and protect the snow contractors operations from potential claims.

Today's "shoot-first-aim-later" mentality – which often leads to litigation – means snow and ice management contractors and clients can never be too prepared for a snow season. Properly managing any property means understanding what is expected, preparing for every possible contingency and efficiently executing our service. The key to mitigating our risk and that of our clients is the documentation of every service rendered to the property every time.

So, how about we stop thinking of ourselves as "snowplowers" and begin believing we are "risk managers." It's much closer to the truth.