When most people consider commercial snow removal, the first thing that comes to mind is plowing open spaces like parking lots and garages. But we like to remind our potential customers that outdoor areas like sidewalks, ramps, stairs, and loading docks are just as much (if not more) of a liability.
Over the past 25 years, we have invested hundreds of hours meticulously training our staff how to care for all walkable and drivable areas on our customer’s properties. Because we want winter to be safer for everyone, sidewalks must get the attention they deserve.
Because plowing or commercial and retail properties is such a large undertaking, sidewalks, ramps and docs can get overlooked. In fact, according to a study by Zurich Insurance, outdoor areas like sidewalks, ramps, and stairs account for 36 percent of all slip-and-fall claims, which is just slightly higher than the percentage of claims from parking garages and lots (35 percent). The average amount paid out for slip-and-fall claims on sidewalks and outdoor areas is also significantly higher than those paid out for similar accidents that occur in parking structures: $19,100 vs. $12,808.
This probably doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, as these areas tend to have the highest amounts of foot traffic.
Beyond The Shovel: Why Tech Matters
The national employment rate is at a record low, which means that it’s harder than ever to fill general labor positions across all industries. This is especially true for seasonal positions that aren’t filled year-round, which is a common hiring practice our industry. As a result, the best commercial snow removal companies must seek ways to adapt and innovate to minimize the impact of labor shortages.
At Schill, we use a variety of products that allow us to mechanize snow and ice removal in tight spaces like stairs, ramps, and sidewalks. For example, utility vehicles with plows and/or deicing gear attached (like the one pictured above), mechanized brooms, and stand-on equipment all allow our crews to clear snow much faster than your traditional sidewalk shovel team.
Smaller companies, on the other hand, may not have access to as many tools, which may limit their efficiency. And in the snow removal industry, efficiency often means safety. The faster snow and ice gets cleared from your sidewalks and outdoor areas, the less time your client’s property is vulnerable to accidents and slip-and-fall claims.
Discuss Property Details
The devil is in the details, and every commercial property has different features that will require different techniques. For example, a hospital that's open 24/7 has a much higher exposure to risk than a retail complex that closes in the evening. Accessibility ramps, which are unavoidable for people using wheelchairs and other wheeled equipment, may need a liquid pretreatment instead of just salt to make sure that the surface is completely free of ice and has as much traction as possible.
But how does a snow removal contractor find out this information?
For starters, they need to have a formal procedure for observing your property and asking the important questions. Many weeks before the first snow event of the season, we conduct pre-season snow inspections on every property we service during the winter, and we take this time to make note of any potential hazards or areas of high foot traffic on the property. From there, we create a snow storm management plan for the property to ensure it will get the highest level or service.