Chad M. Johnson: Snow plow myths
January 31, 2010
As a local excavating contractor in Steamboat Springs, who like many of us doubles as a snow removal service in the winter, I have had to deal with several unpleasant phone calls in the past few days concerning noise problems. I thought I would take a few minutes, put pen to paper, and maybe clarify a couple of myths of snow removal:
■ Myth 1: The local snow removal contractors choose what time of the day or night they can plow a particular property. Not true. In reality, the people who hire us tell us what time they want their properties to be plowed and how many times (or how much snow) they want removed per day, week or month. If we don't follow this agreement (often times in the form of a written contract), they can fire us and find someone else who will plow it the way they want it. In the worst-case scenario, someone gets hurt while driving or walking through the property that hasn't been plowed properly, in which case lawyers and lawsuits follow for everyone involved.
■ Myth 2: The operators who plow these properties drive around all night laughing hysterically because it's so comical that they are waking everyone up. Not true. Just like most of you, they have husbands, wives and children at home who they would much rather be spending their time with. Contrary to popular belief, it's not very fun getting a phone call in the middle of the night telling them to get to work. Sometimes that call comes once per week, but if you've lived here long enough, it can come 28 straight days for 14 hours a day. I've missed my share of Christmas mornings, as did my father and his father before him, and I, for one, wasn't laughing. The simple truth is it's just a job, just like many of you have, only unfortunately it makes a lot of noise and keeps some of you up at night.
■ Myth 3: Those noisy backup alarms are optional. Not true. Quite simply, it's the law, it's OSHA-mandated, and our insurance companies require them. The first machine that backs over someone and hurts, or God forbid kills, them and that machine did not have a properly functioning backup alarm could result in several people going to prison. That's a chance I am not willing to take.
■ Myth 4: We are violating the city noise ordinance making all that noise at night. Again, not true. According to the city noise ordinance, snow removal operations are recognized as an "emergency operation" and are exempt. This was done so the city streets and businesses within the city are safely accessible for everyone trying to get their day started, even on weekends and holidays.
Finally, something to think about the next time before you go after your local plow contractors: If God forbid one of your husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, grandparents or children are seriously injured from slipping on a piece of ice in a parking lot, who are you going to blame? Something tells me it would not be very long before my phone started ringing.
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Chad M. Johnson