February 8, 2021
Lee GouldThe winter maintenance industry is all about people. The whole reason and focus for snow and ice management is about maintaining safety for people. As the often used adage goes: “safety first.” By removing snow and ice, winter maintenance allows members of our society to keep functioning during the colder months. Winter maintenance allows doctors and nurses to get to work, grocery stores to open, and roads to be safer so people can get to their jobs and back home again. It’s all about people.

It's ironic then, that when we think about winter maintenance, we often de-emphasize the human side of the activities in favour of discussions surrounding equipment and products. Review social media posts related to winter maintenance, and you’ll quickly see how the investment made in the latest truck, plow blade or salt hopper tends to sideline the people factor.

When it comes to winter maintenance, how to best support people should be at the forefront of all of our discussions, actions and communications.

Making investments in the right equipment is important because it can help to improve safety in more efficient and more effective ways. Investments in training, knowledge and professionalism are just as important, and they should be celebrated just as much as the acquisition of a new plow or spreader.

We should also consider the people impacted by winter maintenance.

"When it comes to winter maintenance, how to best support people should be at the forefront of all of our discussions, actions and communications."

The vast majority of winter maintenance contractors are small business owners. Small business owners are the lifeblood of the economy. These entrepreneurs are employers and they support partner industries. Think about suppliers, bookkeepers, the legal and insurance industries; so many of these groups, these people, are intertwined and dependent on the winter maintenance industry.

The general public should understand the great lengths winter maintenance professionals go to in order to provide service. These professionals often work long hours, perhaps fuelled by caffeine and dedication, frequently in the middle of the night or early hours of the day to ensure roads, parking lots and walkways are safe and clear for people to go about their business. In no small measure, these people could be considered first responders. As people, to show our appreciation and gratitude, we can and should take our own reasonable steps to ensure safety. We can wear appropriate winter clothing, including footwear; we can install winter tires and practice good winter driving habits. We should also respect operators when they are engaged in winter maintenance operations and encourage others to do likewise.

Winter maintenance is ultimately about people helping people. Let's do all we can to keep it that way.

Lee Gould
Executive Director, Smart About Salt Council