By Cheryl Higley
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, everyone knows about the record snowfall that hit Boston last season. With space at a premium, snow hauling was a hot service and snow farms stacked several feet high were commonplace. Despite that extreme, however, more contractors are seeing snow removal and hauling as prime value-added services that can boost profitability.
Snow hauling and relocation is a highly choreographed exercise with many moving parts. Truck drivers, loader operators, site foremen, dump supervisors and even the general public add up to a lot of people and heavy equipment to look out for during a snow event. As such, safety must be a key component to any hauling program.
Driver and equipment safety
W. L. French Excavating Corp. uses 35 triaxles for its hauling operations. The company uses its Vehicle Safety and Driver Safety programs as daily guidelines to ensure its fleet is operating safely and legally, and in compliance with DOT regulations, explains Lisa French Kelley, director of business development.
Those programs include a thorough pre-operation inspection on all vehicles. Drivers are required to be equipped with all general safety equipment, seat belts, safety gear (shirts, hard hats), etc. As part of that program, W. L. French requires every operator to have updated licenses, certifications and motor vehicle record; to have updated medical exams and tests; to pass yearly on-road skills assessment driving tests; to be drug/alcohol free; and to attend weekly toolbox meetings and site-specific training with the safety director.
MPS Property Services President Jim Monk, CSP, says inspecting workers’ personal protective equipment is part of the company’s safety check before beginning operations. “We make sure that the operators and drivers have proper gear, including high-visibility vests. We carry extras so if a subcontractor doesn’t have one we can lend him one.”
Once operational, there are additional ways to keep the team safe.
Dean Outhouse, CSP, president of Crescent Snow Operations, established protocols for team communications to keep everyone in their equipment: “No one ever gets out of the dump truck and no one gets out of the loaders. When you get out is when something can happen.”
Public sites, where multiple companies are coming and going, can raise the probability for accidents, says Neal Glatt, CSP, ASM, of Case Snow Management. “Dump sites aren’t typically the best maintained, so maneuverability is a concern. Sometime a bunch of trucks are trying to dump in the same pile and you get a major bottleneck or an accident if guys aren’t careful.”
Evaluate the site
Whether relocating on-site or hauling off-site, it’s important to evaluate the work area before beginning. Glatt says: “Snow piles, traffic, etc. change quickly. It’s important to re-evaluate the area each storm. First and foremost, a working area needs to be defined. Determine what snow piles are going to be moved, how trucks will be routed to the pile, and where the loader will be working.”
Minimize public access
Outhouse says ideally all hauling/stacking activity will take place at night when the public is not around. When that’s not possible, it’s important to keep them away from activity and alert them to the fact that hazardous conditions are present.
Monk agrees: “We discuss potential vehicular and pedestrian problems and cordon off our work area if necessary. Sometimes mobile signboards are necessary to temporarily divert traffic.”
Glatt advises that all trucks and loaders should have flashing hazard lights and backup alarms, and the site should be well lit. “If the lights aren’t already on, ask the property manager to turn them on.” He says that despite the company’s best efforts, some sites just can’t be “people proofed.” When that is the case, both Glatt and Monk encourage using spotters to help manage traffic.
On the road
Prevent overloading the dump trucks and ensure tarps are secured if required.
“Weight typically doesn’t become much of an issue because snow isn’t very dense, but large ice blocks can still damage trucks and equipment,” Glatt says.
Know the law
City, state and federal laws govern operations, so it’s important to know the rules that apply to the site you’re working on. For example, Monk says Ontario requires a written plan if the company will impact traffic on a public road. “We make sure this is completed and understood by everyone.”
With regard to dumping, Glatt says it’s important to know whether sites need licensed to accept snow given the trash and hazardous materials that might be in the snow.
Between the regulations and all the moving parts, it’s important not to discount the importance of a strong safety plan: “Put it all together, and you have a lot of safety concerns and regulations to deal with,” Glatt says.
Cheryl Higley is editor in chief of Snow Business magazine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.