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Do the right thing

  • SIMA
- Posted: February 6, 2018

By Phill Sexton, CSP, ASM

See a video at the end of the article for examples on how to do the right thing in snow & ice management.

As a parent, I periodically ask my kids to “do the right thing.” Sometimes their response is one of understanding: “OK, Dad.” Other times they ask, “What do you mean?”

As a profession, do we always do the right thing or understand what it means? What does it mean within the context of performing snow & ice management services, engaging with clients and interacting with the public? Doing the right thing includes these minimum standards of professionalism and practice.

First impressions

How do clients, passers-by and people looking out their windows perceive us? Are we always behaving at the highest level of professionalism? Are we polite? Do we act professionally? Is our level of knowledge and expertise exceeding minimum expectations? As professionals we always have opportunities to improve.

Ensuring all team members are properly clothed, fed, trained, equipped and rested is priority No. 1. Everyone on your team should be wearing the same uniform when performing their work. The minimum standard uniform includes eye protection (safety glasses), hearing protection, protective footwear, cold and wet weather clothing and high-visibility gear (reflective jackets, vests and hats).

Pedestrian access routes (PARs) are places where people walk and congregate. The transition zone where a road or driveway meets a sidewalk curb line is where the greatest risk for people getting injured exists. This area is what I call “no man’s land.” A majority of sites I observe each winter have a windrow of snow in the transition area. Doing the right thing for PARs includes establishing a policy to shovel snow 24 inches away from the transition area and to establish who is responsible for this area.

Curb to curb
A visually professional appearance includes seeing the curb lines. During the sales and estimating process and in the production planning phase, the time and resources it takes to provide this level of detail should be included. Doing the right thing sometimes means simply getting out of the truck and using a shovel for a minute or two to perform that last 10% of detail.

Special needs
Wheelchair access and other special needs areas that require extra attention to detail should be planned and prioritized as part of the site engineering process.

The area behind parked cars is particularly vulnerable to avoid windrowing or stacking snow behind them. When an excessive amount of snow makes its way behind or underneath a parked car, do the right thing and shovel out those areas. This will require always having a shovel or someone else available to shovel. The use of containment plows or hydraulic wing plows for scooping snow away from parked cars is useful.

A best practice for managing slippery conditions is anti-icing to prevent the bond of snow and ice to paved surfaces. This is implemented best with the use of brine. Preventing the bond with brine when conditions allow is the economically and environmentally responsible thing to do because it enables the reduction of salt use by four to 10 times compared with the traditional method of applying solid rock salt.

Standards of practice are necessary for any industry to professionalize. Standards of behavior are necessary to act professionally. Use the principle of doing the right thing to guide your internal compass.

Online Resources

  • The Tear & Teach from the February Snow Business offers examples of what “do the right thing” should and shouldn’t look like when it comes to professional snow and ice management. This resource, along with previous Tear & Teach pullouts, is available for download and printing here.
  • SIMA offers a training video focused on Snow Site Engineering and Planning.
  • The SIMA Library includes several resources on proper PPE, sidewalk clearing best practices, and brine programs:

Phill Sexton, CSP, ASM, is founder and CEO of WIT Advisers and SIMA’s industry liaison. He also is a member of the Snow Business Editorial Advisory Committee. Email him at

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