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Winter Training: An Upfront Investment with Big Returns

- Posted: October 1, 2018

By Karen Kier

Quality training, when part of your whole winter program, not only enhances everyone’s safety but ensures the integrity of your equipment and that quality work will be performed for your customers.  

Training also sets a company apart from the competitors. We view the cost of training as an investment in our team and company. It promotes professionalism and is a way for people to develop their skills and grow with the company. This, and trusting your most highly skilled team members to do the training, leads to higher retention.  Compared to the cost of accidents and property damage caused by the untrained person, the cost of training and the benefits to your company more than make it money well spent.

ID training needs. If you don’t have a solid training plan in place for this winter, it’s not too late.  Evaluate your training needs by listing out the key pieces of equipment you use and the types of work you perform. If you have a specific problem area, work on providing a special training. A few years ago we had a lot of accidents during backing up. We set up a special driving course using cones and wooden stakes and set up driving lanes. Since we began doing this training, every year our backing accidents have significantly declined.

Set policies. When training on the use of equipment, have a training policy. Make it a standard operating procedure that no one uses your equipment unless they’ve been trained by you. No matter how much experience someone says they have, they don’t know your equipment or your way of doing things.  

Document training. Have your team members and the trainer sign off stating that they’ve been trained and feel comfortable using the equipment or performing the task. This helps in the event of an incident or accident and you need to follow up with team members.  

Training should be standardized. Make standard training checklists for each piece of equipment or job task on which you train. Include standard operating procedures for all your winter operations. This ensures everyone hears and learns the same information, no matter who does the training.    

Training components. Key components of a good training program include a review of safety and potential hazards; PPE (if any) for every job; and technical aspects of the equipment or task. Showing relevant pictures or video is a great way for people to learn. Good classroom discussion should then be followed up with hands-on training. Finally have the person demonstrate key points to show they understand the training presented. We often find something that could have been a problem in the field during the demonstration stage. This allows us to retrain before going into the field.

Take training beyond the equipment. Visit your sites prior to the snow falling and have the team member stake the property. This ensures they know the areas where work should be performed. They can identify curb lines potential hazards such as fire hydrants, ground lighting fixtures, raised manhole covers, and more. Inform the team member of the customer’s expectations and the scope of work at each site.

Do a dry run. We have our crews drive their routes a couple of times before it snows. This gets people comfortable and reduces questions at the height of an event. Lastly we do a dry run of the route in the middle of the night. We work that just like a regular snow event.  I provides a great opportunity to smooth out any glitches in our snow plan. Our people actually look forward to this. We follow it with a big hot breakfast served by our managers in our training room. Our team members say it gets them psyched about winter and provides an opportunity for them to connect with friends and coworkers they hadn’t seen since last winter.  

A well developed training program gets everyone on board for a great winter season.

Karen Kier is Vice President of Pro Scapes Inc., in Jamesville, NY and a Managing Partner with Forge Ahead Consulting. Comments welcome at

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