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Salting for a change: Pain, force or reward?

  • Martin Tirado, CAE
- Posted: September 13, 2019

At a recent SIMA Board of Directors meeting, our Board Chair Carl Bolm, CSP, engaged us with a conversation on what creates change. Change is created by three things: 

Something is causing mild to serious problems in our business or personal lives and needs adjustment. It hurts. Whatever it is, we change so that it either stops hurting or hurts less. 

An entity is telling us we have to do something. Think of a boss, manager, rules from some entity, or government laws and regulations. Like them or not, change is required and forced upon us. 

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There’s an opportunity to gain from making a change. This could be monetary or personal fulfillment, but when we make the change, we feel better or are better off financially. 

There are some items where change is made from two or all three of these reasons.

One important item where change has either started, or will soon, is how salt is applied to surfaces for snow and ice melting. From Ontario, to New Hampshire, New York, Minnesota and soon other states and provinces, salt application is being monitored because of the impact it has on freshwater sources. 

For six years, New Hampshire has had a regulated program where contractors who apply salt can get limited liability protection by undergoing training and continuing education. Model legislation similar to New Hampshire’s has already been introduced in Minnesota and will soon be in Ontario. SIMA supported the New Hampshire regulations and will do so in other states and provinces since it brings much needed liability protection for trained applicators. 

How will we adapt to change? 

The salt supply issues that are often beyond our control have been painful. If we can get the same results of clear pavement while using less, that lowers the pain of a lack of supply. Customers asking for more salt to lower slip and fall liability has led to pain for stakeholders looking to protect our sources of freshwater. Yet, despite any amount of salt being applied, the liability of slipping on snow and ice can cause pain to our businesses. No one is winning in this scenario. 

Force has not caused change yet — the New Hampshire regulations are voluntary. However, those complying with the regulations and obtaining the essential training and documentation have shown to be less liable in slip and fall insurance claims. Applicators are applying less and being held less liable. The force, albeit voluntary, is working. 

Snow service providers’ business models are changing since profitability can be enhanced by new ways of conducting business. With the proper contractual agreements with customers, operator training, equipment calibration and SIMA’s best practices, you can get the same results with less. Less expenses can result in greater profitability. That’s our reward for hard work and dedication in winter’s toughest storms.

Change is coming. We need to adapt whether it is because of pain, force or to seek rewards. The technology tools and alternative methods of providing a high level of service to our customers exist. Let’s embrace them so we can all improve and grow together. 

Martin Tirado, CAE, is chief executive officer of SIMA. Email him at


Freshwater impact: Snow companies can use the push to protect freshwater sources from chloride contamination as an opportunity to change practices that will reduce salt use and liability while seeing a positive change to the bottom line. 


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