© digi_guru | iStockphoto

The professional snow and ice management industry has been buzzing about this topic for months, but the prospect for an impending North American rock salt shortage is looking more realistic as we approach winter 2018-19.

Deicing salt availability in certain regions is showing signs of supply and price problems as the industry enters its preseason. While coastal markets are generally well supplied from global sources, interior regions of the U.S. are reporting availability problems. Much of this is the result of a significant uptick in transportation costs along with a series of events with domestic mines that has triggered delays and supply problems. With availability issues comes price increases and a run on existing supplies, so expect both in the affected regions.


To further complicate matters, commercial contractors are far down the pecking order from their municipal and government brethren, who receive priority access to available stockpiles.

The great unknown, though, is the type of winter we’ll actually experience. Any number of scenarios could contributing to the rapid depletion of contractors’ existing and reserve salt piles. Therefore, the ASCA is advising professional snow and ice management contractors to consider the following.

Know the industry standards.

At its core, the Accredited Snow Contractors Association is the publication and maintenance of the System Requirements for Snow and Ice Management Services: ANSI/ASCA A1000-2014, or more commonly known as the Industry Standards.

The Industry Standards for the snow and ice management industry were created to provide companies with procedures to reduce risk. These standards give you the proper documentation and procedures in defense of a potential slip-and-fall lawsuit, including best practices for salting and deicing.

Be the authority.

The ASCA firmly believes a professional snow and ice management contractor tasked with servicing a property is the best authority to make decisions on when to apply salt and deicer to a property before, during and after an event.

Through training and experience, professional contractors understand how to properly use salt and deicing products and equipment. More importantly, proper use ensures the correct rate is applied to pavement and at the correct time, all of which eliminates waste and extends the life of existing salt resources.

In fact, the association has introduced model legislation to state legislatures that prohibits property owners from using hold-harmless agreements in their winter service contracts. Hold-harmless agreements allow property owners to pass the burden of liability on to the contractor while retaining the ability to decide when and when not to salt or service the property. To date, Illinois and Colorado have enacted this legislation into law.

Get certified.

The ASCA is a proponent of contractors educating their labor force and ensuring the correct execution of best management practices, including those outlined in the Industry Standards. This can be done by having employees earn their ASCA-C status through the association, as well as having snow operations earn ISO 9001/SN 9001 certification. The ASCA created a quality management system specifically for the professional snow and ice management industry. SN 9001 works in conjunction with the existing ISO 9001. This program is based on ISO 9001 with additional requirements based on our industry and the Industry Standards.

While the ASCA cannot influence the amount of salt and deicing material available to commercial snow and ice management contractors, the association advocates these practices as ways contractors can more sensibly use existing stock to execute proper pavement conditions on their clients’ properties. 

 

The author is the executive director of the ASCA.