The Smart About Salt Council (SASC) is grateful to the Government of Ontario for providing funding assistance to help in the development of an appropriate verification program to assist the certification and accreditation efforts of winter maintenance contractors, facility owners/operators and others, to help SASC continue to update our award-winning education programs and to facilitate dialogue between all those that have an interest in safety, winter maintenance practices and the environment.

SASC's Efforts to Develop a Relevant Verifcation Progam Summarized

1. Retaining a Consultant

Using tested and preferred procurement practices a request for proposals (RFP) document was crafted and distributed using MERX: Canada's electronic tendering service. As a result, the services of WSP Canada Group was retained. WSP Global Inc. is a Canadian business providing management and consultancy services to the built and natural environment. It is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX:WSP).

2. Jurisdictional Scan

A jurisdictional scan was conducted through a combination of an Internet search, LISTSERV query, and telephone interviews. The intent was to locate programs similar to SASC and investigate their verification and auditing methods. The search was limited to North America to maintain a relevance in regards to snow and ice conditions, road and parking lot infrastructure, and legislative culture. For this reason, programs in Europe were not included. 

The internet search was conducted by referencing known portals of winter maintenance information, such as the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and the Transportation Research Board (TRB). The search was then widened to include commercial pages, program websites, and government databases. The focus was on finding and investigating road salt application certification projects and their training, verification, and accreditation processes. Materials consulted included academic papers, training presentation documents, news articles, and web pages. LISTSERV is a software application which distributes messages to subscribers on an electronic mailing list. For this project, a query was posed on the SNOW-ICE list serve which focuses on communication between winter maintenance professionals. The responses were considered through the context of the scope and intent of the project and were investigated accordingly.  From the above, organizational representatives were identified and telephoned to provide clarity/expand on their online information. 

As expected there were a lack of verification and authentication programs among road salt certification programs, and therefore the search was expanded to other service certificate providers with similar contracted business models, authentication needs, operational methods, and leading practices.

In total eight (8) programs were reviewed in detail. All of the road salt certification/verification programs reviewed were voluntary and education oriented, with emphasis placed on the benefits to the operators, property owners/managers, and the environment. These often-included reduced costs from minimized salt use, reputational benefits, legal benefits, and reduced impacts to the local infrastructure and waterways. 

Online self-reporting was used in over half of the programs reviewed as a method for the certificate holders to track their own salt usage and operations. These self-reporting methods were not used as a verification tool. Where training was included in the certification process it always contained an in-class component and often required the successful completion of a test at the end. All the programs required re-certification ranging in timescale from one to five years. 

Most of the programs investigated did not contain a verification process. Reasoning for this ranged from the difficulties in monitoring a seasonal and transient workforce, the relative novelty of the programs, lack of resources, or that it was inconsistent with the goal of the program, which was often educational rather than regulatory. In addition, it should be noted that few of the programs had concrete data about their efficacy and impact on salt levels in local watersheds, partly due to the difficulty in isolating and monitoring this impact. 

Programs outside of road salt certifications had more substantial verification processes which relied on auditing and in-person site visits. These verification processes were triggered by a variety of different factors including a random selection, breach of a threshold number, or regular scheduling regardless of other factors. Verifications often included on-site visits by either a member of the certification program or a contracted third-party. The benefits conferred by these programs included reputational benefits, access to professional networks, use of advertising material, and inclusion on a list of certificate holders. Some of the strategies included punitive measures if the terms of certification were breached such as denial of benefits or certificate revocation.

The results of the jurisdictional scan are shared here: WSP Verification Protocol Development Task 1 Jurisdictional Review DRAFT 29MAY18.pdf

3. Drafting a Framework for Program Verification

Working with WSP a verification program has been drafted. The discussion document was grounded in by the knowledge obtained through the completion of the jurisdictional scan and considers:

i.             Existing SASC training and certification programs;

ii.            The resource limitations of winter maintenance contractors and others;

iii.           General safety requirements;

iv.           Leading practices that might address liability concerns and other issues;

v.            Procedures necessary to verify the use of SASC training;

vi.           The need for reporting;

vii.          Performance metrics program verification such as: Calibration, pre-wetting, the percentage of employees that are trained in leading practices in winter maintenance, the percentage of supervisors that are trained in leading practices in winter maintenance, the percentage of automatic controllers being used, the use of advanced snow plow blades and equipment, the use in winter maintenance operations of temperature sensing equipment, sand and direct liquid application, the use of low or non-salt products, the challenges resulting from significant winter storm events,  the actual amounts of de-icing products used with emphasis on salt products (chlorides), use of shared liability contracts, etc.; and,

viii.         Defines reporting requirements and how they will be recorded with consideration to the number and frequency of complaints, the number and frequency of audits, the findings against leading practices, teachings, and certification standards of the SASC.

With a draft program verification framework now developed requests to present and share materials have been made to key stakeholder groups which include industry representation.

The draft verification program is provided here (WSP Verification Protocol Development Task 3 Verification Protocol DRAFT v5.pdf)with readers being invited to share their thoughts and comments by email SASC at contact@smartaboutsalt.com.

4. Future Steps

Through the balance of 2018 and into early 2019, SASC will seek feedback on the draft verification program. With feedback in-hard efforts will be made to update and then pilot a project to ensure that the program functions as hoped. Ultimately, Smart About Salt Council hopes to make this value-added program available through a full and comprehensive launch by no later than 2020.


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