Winter maintenance professionals are responsible for performing outdoor, hands-on winter maintenance and those who supervise them. The primary duties include snow and ice removal from roads, sidewalks, parking lots, and trails, and applying a variety of deicers and abrasives. Some are part of emergency services and have exemption for laws that may cover weight restrictions on trucks or hours of consecutive work.
Winter maintenance professionals are employed by the public and private sectors, working for very small organizations to large organizations. Unusual hours and working in a variety of difficult winter weather conditions are typical in this industry. All of these professionals are under public scrutiny and receive comments about their work, because it directly and visibly impacts the public. There is a lot of pride within this sector as they are called on repeatedly, in the most difficult weather, to get the traveling public to their destinations safely.
The state, county, and city winter maintenance operations in the TCMA are under the extreme pressure of moving people safely on high volume, high speed roads, during all times of the day and night. Although their job is difficult, they often have the advantages of more sophisticated equipment, bigger support staff, less staff turn-over, and access to better and more frequent training than their private counterparts.
Private winter maintenance companies are very diverse and have a unique set of challenges. They often assume legal liability for “slip and falls” at their customer sites. They cannot bill clients when they attend training and have fewer incentives for training their crews. It can be difficult to locate this segment to invite them to Smart Salting trainings. The equipment used for small sites is less sophisticated and prone to over application of material. Their customers are spread out geographically, creating problems for proper and efficient storage and the transport of materials. Part-time seasonal workers fill many of the positions in these companies, which makes proper training an additional challenge for the employer.
The areas of maintenance vary greatly from seldom used sidewalks to the interstate. It ranges from concrete bridge decks to the marble steps of the capitol building. Each maintenance area has unique challenges that must be understood and mastered. The public generally does not understand or appreciate the difficulty of winter maintenance, and certainly does not understand the increasing challenges and changes coming to this industry as it moves towards conservative use of salt.
Maintenance professionals should become educated on the environmental impacts of salt and how their practices contribute to it. Maintenance professionals could attend training on lower salt use strategies, keep an open mind towards change, and look for ways to make salt use more efficient.
Operators could attend training and learn about changes that can be made on an individual basis. Many salt saving strategies do not need the cooperation of an entire agency; they can be incorporated into daily work. Other salt savings actions can be led by supervisors that will involve teamwork within the department, such as moving from manual controlled spreaders to computer controlled spreaders.
Supervisors may assess their current maintenance program using the WMAt, or other assessment techniques, to assess advanced, standard, and remedial practices. The remedial practices could be prioritized then followed by working towards improving good practices to make excellent practices.
Training opportunities, tools, and other resources for winter maintenance professionals can be found in Appendix D.