Snow Removal Plan
Every parish, school and institution should have a snow removal plan in place. The best time to work out the plan is in early autumn, before the first snowfall. To begin, designate a specific employee to be responsible for overseeing the snow and ice removal plan and, if possible, designate another employee to be a back-up. Second, document the plan in writing and review it with staff each fall, before the winter season sets in.
Elements of a Plan
- Determine and document the priority areas for snow and ice removal in advance, such as parking lots, driveways, sidewalks and handicap-accessible parking areas.
- Put the necessary snow/ice removal equipment, such as lightweight shovels, snow blowers and ice choppers, in place and make sure all equipment is operational.
- Order the necessary supplies and designate an employee to ensure your stock does not run low. Supplies should include salt, sand, and/or pre-mix.
- Determine which staff member will be responsible for removing the snow/ice and under what conditions (i.e., when snowfall is less than two inches). In the event that snow will begin falling overnight, document the time in which the staff member will begin snow removal work the following morning.
- Develop a list of able-bodied parishioners who may be able to volunteer their services for light snow removal.
- Ensure that a communication plan is in place to let employees and volunteers know about delayed openings or closures.
- Document the procedure for working with a snow removal service.
Contracting with a Snow Removal Service
The amount of snowfall and the size of your grounds will determine whether snow removal can be done by an employee or whether you will need the services of a snow removal contractor. Generally, when the snowfall is greater than two inches, the use of a contractor is recommended.
It is good practice to contract with a snow removal service in advance. Specify in the contract when the contractor is required to perform duties. Is the parish required to contact the contractor, or does the contractor begin after a specified amount of snowfall? Include other requirements, such whether salt or ice melt is to be applied and to which areas.
The parish/institution should provide the contractor with a rendering of the property that designates parking lots, walkways and other priority areas. If priority areas change depending on the day of the week (i.e., parish traffic patterns may differ on a weekend when Masses are scheduled), then be sure to indicate that.
When entering into a contract with a snow removal service provider, the contract should include the provision that the parish or institution and diocese are both held harmless with regard to liability arising out of the contractor’s snow removal activities. Also, request a certificate of insurance from the contractor naming the parish, the diocese and the bishop as additional insureds with a minimum liability limit of $1,000,000.
The term of the contract should be for one year without an automatic renewal. Review the contract and assess the service at the end of each winter and make a decision at that time about renewing the contract. Post the contractor’s contact information in a common work location and check the contact details at the beginning of each winter season to be sure they are current.
Work Done By a Volunteer or Employee
An employee or volunteer who is injured while removing snow or ice may be covered under workers’ compensation coverage or a volunteer accident policy.
A Parish's Leased Property
A parish is legally responsible for snow removal from the property it leases to tenants. The parish may, however, transfer the associated risks to the tenant by:
- Stating in the lease agreement that the tenant is required to clear the lease premises of any snow and ice;
- Including in the lease agreement an indemnity and defense clause to the benefit of the parish; and
- Obtaining a certificate of insurance from the tenant naming the parish and diocese as additional insureds. This certificate of insurance should be renewed every year as long as the tenant is leasing the property.
De-icing Materials to Have on Hand
There are a variety of materials used to treat surfaces after a snowfall or freezing rain, but parishes will generally use the following:
- Rock salt (sodium chloride) is used to either prevent ice from forming or to break the bond of ice to the pavement. Advantages of rock salt are that it is cheap, effective and readily available. Disadvantages are its environmental impact, its tendency to cause corrosion, and its ineffectiveness in temperatures below 20°F.
- Sand is effective at providing traction but is harmful to the environment and has a tendency to clog drainage structures.
- Pre-Mix is used in reduced-salt areas and in other areas when air temperature is very low. It is less harmful to the environment and works well at low temperatures. Disadvantages are that it is expensive and must be stored and kept dry.
Snow removal contractors may use other materials such as Liquid Calcium Chloride, which is highly effective for de-icing when mixed with salt and is also an effective anti-icing agent. It is less harmful to the environment and equipment than salt and sand but it is costly and its application must be timed correctly.