Two tons of safety

Snow and Ice Report - Operations

Snowplow operators must weigh safety issues before a winter event and before they operate any piece of snow fighting equipment.

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August 2, 2019


© Dan Cook | Unsplash

Even with all the advances in technology that have enhanced the snow-removal industry, safety protocols are as important as ever. Plow operators should be cognizant of safety issues well before a snow event and well before they operate a piece of equipment.

Zach Kelley is the director of operations for Sauers Snow and Ice Management in Warminster, Pa.


The company serves the Philadelphia metropolitan area.

Kelley stresses the importance of plow operators familiarizing themselves with their equipment and with safety standards. His employees and service providers receive safety training at the start of each snow season.

“The first time you operate a piece of equipment should not be in the middle of a snowstorm,” Kelley says. “We take time in the months leading up to snow season to train our crew members on the equipment they will be operating. Our goal is that they can safely operate that piece of equipment in all weather conditions. The operators should walk around equipment before using it to visually inspect it.”

Prior to a snow event, plow operators should have a working knowledge of the site they’ll be servicing.

Prior to the start of the snow season, Attilio DiLoreto tells his plow operators to visit the sites where they’ll be working to familiarize with its unique features and any potential problem areas.

“The more times you visit the site before it snows, the better you’re going to be on it when it snows,” says DiLoreto, the director of operations for Case Snow Management in North Attleborough, Mass. He emphasizes that plow operators and their managers should have a plan of action in place and be intimately familiar with that plan before a storm hits.

“You review a plan in the office,” DiLoreto says. “You review a plan in the field. You review every area with your site manager. You review any problem areas that are going to be there so when it does snow (plow operators) know everything that’s there.

“The operators know which area they’re plowing,” he adds. “They know any dangers in that area. If there are emergency exits, the manager knows where they are.”

DiLoreto says its best to have as many people become familiar with a plan as possible. “The more people look at the plan the more chance you’re going to have of picking up a mistake or a problem,” he says. “The more guys that are out in the field looking at the site, the less problems you’re going to have in the future.”

When a storm is imminent, operators need to prepare themselves for the conditions they are likely to face, which of course will vary. based on changing conditions.

“We have developed a snow response plan that dictates what preparations we make,” Kelley says, “and how we communicate with our team. Our snow response plan is specific to what type and size snow event we are having. We prepare very differently for flurries than we do for blizzards and ice events.”

It’s essential that plow operators prepare themselves for a storm physically as well. That includes getting sufficient rest, eating properly and staying hydrated.

Consuming water or a sports drink before going to work in the snow helps guard against dehydration. Replenishing fluids during the snow event itself is also important.

“Our snow response plan is specific to what type and size snow event we are having. We prepare very differently for flurries than we do for blizzards and ice events.” Zach Kelley, director of operations, Sauers Snow and Ice Management

Once the plowing operation begins, DiLoreto stresses the importance of operators maintaining a safe plowing speed.

“There is no reason why I need to plow at faster than 15 miles an hour,” he says. “None. Anything that happens after that speed is only going to be an accident. Or something bad. Or, you’ll break something. That’s in equipment, that’s in trucks, that’s in everything.

“You should always take a look at what the site looks like and understand what you’re driving on. If you come into an area that’s slippery and you’re driving fast, you’re going to have an accident. So, know the ground you’re driving on.”

Kelley instructs his crews to take nothing for granted in terms of their surroundings. “It doesn’t matter how comfortable you are with a piece of equipment on a site. Always take the time to look before making a turn or reversing.”

Kelley makes a point to emphasize safety concerns to his team and his clients.

“There is absolutely nothing that is worth taking that shortcut and adding an unnecessary risk to our team and equipment,” he says.

“When clients ask us to cut corners … we use that time to educate others. The ASCA Industry Standards have been a great resource for our company. We love to share these standards with our clients to educate them on the snow and ice industry.”

Rick Woelfel is a freelance writer based in Pennsylvania.