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Operator Accountability

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by forestfireguy, Jan 16, 2011.

  1. forestfireguy

    forestfireguy PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,276

    How do larger operations run their accountability policy?

    We run a 50+ piece snow operation, and this year has been absolutley BRUTAL in damages and repairs. I'm sure much of it could have been avoided with more time between landscape DB production and ramping up for snow, but time is something we don't have right now. Our steps thus far to "stop the bleeding" is change our pre/post trip inspections to include a more thourough list. This has helped.

    My main concern here is the other damages we are suffering, things like mangled plow frames, broken/bent pistons, pins knocked out of buckets, tires popped on curbs, wheels cracked....I'm reasonably sure that 90% of this could have been avoided.
    I know the hours are long and as people work through 12-18 hour shifts they get tired, tired can = careless and then damage results. This doesn't seem to be the main issue behind our troubles. And if it were there still needs to be accountability for damage, not so much looking for someone to blame, but the I didn't notice the pin fell out of the bucket, or that the headlight is hanging from the wire harness is unacceptable.

    Does anyone with a similar sized or larger operation have an accountability policy that they could share? We have a points policy we use in the maintenance/DB side of the business that we can adapt, but I'm interested to see what others do.

    I've heard the make them pay for it thing, the can on the first issue thing and several others. However there are legalities, we run a completely above board operation, pay no one cash and the state labor people are well acquainted with us as 3/4 of our staff gets laid off for the winter annually.

    Ideas?? Or policies from others would be great.........
  2. JohnnyU

    JohnnyU 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,037

    I'm not sure how your operators/drivers are paid during operations, but it would make sense to me, that if the break down occurred during the storm (severe enough to put that machine out of commission), that the operator be present and wait around for the repair to be completed, off the clock. So as to say that the operator is only being paid for actual snow-clearing work, not for standing around waiting for something to be fixed. It might be a sort of hybrid between commission-based pay and hourly pay, but it seems to me that would try to entice an operator to NOT break down or abuse the equipment, since he won't be paid to stand around or rest while the repair is being made.

    Local labor laws may prohibit something such as this, but it is just a suggestion.
  3. 2COR517

    2COR517 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,115

    If they are hourly employees, you can't make them pay for repairs. You also can't make them watch someone fix the truck and not pay.

    How are the guys on equipment when doing landscaping, etc?
  4. snocrete

    snocrete Banned
    Messages: 2,862

    I offer a bonus to "employees". Basically if they show up on time every time, work hard, and dont break/screw anything up...they get a bonus at the end of the winter season. They are told what they could potentially get as a bonus....how much of that they get, is up to them and their performance. 1 guy dosent know it yet, but he wont be getting much of his(if any). All the others are still eligible to receive the full bonus. This is something thats discussed at the beginning, then not again til the end.
  5. 2COR517

    2COR517 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,115

    Season end bonus/incentive is about the only thing you can do. Just be sure you have good solid documentation why you didn't give the one guy any. The guys will talk about how much they received. You don't want the one guy calling the labor dept.

    You might consider a one or two mid-season checks if things are going well. Sometimes people need encouragement to continuing a good job. And for the the guy that has screwed up, an opportunity to start over with a clean slate. Might keep him from beating on stuff if he doesn't think he's getting a bonus anyway.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2011
  6. b&b landscapes

    b&b landscapes Member
    Messages: 74

    Thumbs Up
    Thumbs Up This is what we do for snow removal season and on our lawn care crews and hardscapes crews.... WORKS FANTASTIC

    Snow removal $300 bonus
    Lawncare $500 bonus
    Hardscapes $750 bonus

    we subtract
    5% for each minor screw up
    10% for each semi-major event
    25% for each major event
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2011
  7. snocrete

    snocrete Banned
    Messages: 2,862

    I dont pay all operators/laborers the same. Increases in pay(or bonuses) are earned. They can talk all they want. My ducks are in a row, and my guys know how I roll. Thanks for the advice though.

    As for the mid season thing. I dont announce it, because winters can be very mild here....and it keeps me from being bound to anything. But if it is a busy winter and the guys have been doing a good job and working hard, I have been known to throw them an extra $50/$100 dollar bill on occasion, and/or take them all out for dinner & drinks. I try and do these "little" things even with my year round guys.
  8. cold_and_tired

    cold_and_tired PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,246

    If a guy breaks the equipment he is assigned to, couldn't he be sent home until the repairs are complete?
  9. 2COR517

    2COR517 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,115

    I don't know why not....
  10. Pinky Demon

    Pinky Demon PlowSite.com Addict
    from Ohio
    Messages: 1,121

    That's chitty. I know how frustrating it can be, even with a small operation these types of things happen. It all boils down to "it's not mine, IDGAF."
  11. LoneCowboy

    LoneCowboy PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,760

    When I first started plowing years ago (in a big operation, 40-50 trucks)
    the rule was
    If you hit something, you're back on a shovel.

    seemed to work pretty well.

    employees definitely break more stuff than owners do.
    and sometimes stuff just breaks.

    but you should be able to identify who are your problems and get rid of them (or get them off expensive equipment)
  12. Matson Snow

    Matson Snow PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,985

    It boils down to hiring the right people....Training the people on the equipment they are using....The operators need to visit sites pre-season and sometimes Pre-storm to find trouble spots...Mapping of the sites that the operator has at their disposal and in the Truck/Equipment at all times.....

    Lets face it...Screw-ups do happen...But, if they happen continuously...The person needs to be terminated....
  13. forestfireguy

    forestfireguy PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,276

    I like the bonus idea, that one has potential for us.

    The sending them home unitl it's running again idea is what we do, but it doesn't get to the point. Which is preventing a reason to send someone home or terminate them.

    Certain people the termination solution has worked for, others are extremely important to our operation in the spring/summer/fall. Not that they couldn't be replaced, but they are anchors, great leaders and trainers of new guys, drivers etc etc...... So firing isn't a viable solution in all cases either.

    I know accidents happen, and accidents I can accept. it's the other "stuff" thats at issue here.

    Keep em coming guys...THANKS
  14. KEC Maintaince

    KEC Maintaince Senior Member
    from N.J.
    Messages: 265

    imo things break but if they are tearing up equipment faster then you can repaire it then you need to have a sit down with the crew and explain to them that maybe next event you might be going to a smaler crew to get the job done.
    things break but if they are not putting safety first and doing it on purpose and being neglectful then its time to get rid of a few.
    yea it is stresful out there and you guys do long hours but thats even a better reason to be careful every time a piece of equipment goes down its lost production and money.
    pre truck and equipment inspections should be a normal thing.
  15. DGODGR

    DGODGR Senior Member
    from s/w co
    Messages: 639

    IMy outfit is not especially large (in fact it's never been smaller). I have still had to deal with this issue as I assume everyone with employees has. IME incentives seem to work better than discipline alone. If you are going to use incentives I would suggest that, if possible, you try to do it with consistency, and frequency. Make it a public event within your company. I would assume that you have regular safety meetings. If not, now is a good time to start, and since you started this post, you probably recognize this too. By doing this you will, IMO, increase the effectiveness of your program several fold. The frequency will show that you are committed to safety, and that it's important to your company. The incentives will do this too. By making a public spectacle you are going to incorporate pier pressure. This can be a huge motivater if you have good employees. It also allows those who do not earn them see that they can be earned, and see some positive re-enforcement. If you do it tactfully and respectfully, you can also use the problems as lessons, and possible learning experiences. This can be a way to acknowledge the mistake made (in front of the offenders piers-PIER PRESSURE), and you can ask the offender if he/she can offer suggestions to help avoid this problem in the future. This puts them on the spot but also allows them a graceful way to contribute to the safety program. It will be very important that you don't make the offender "wrong", beat him up over it, or aggressively call the guy out in front of his piers. Be careful, you will be walking a fine line. The other advantage to frequency is that it helps keep safety at the front of everyones minds. Obviously it will be difficult to offer $ incentives every week. Maybe a point system (positive=added points, negatives=subtracted points) that can be totalled each month. The weekly meetings help everyone see things progress, and the monthly can be when the incentives are passed out. Maybe a yearly, or seasonal total with a biiger "prize". Maybe a weekend trip/get-away, Nascar, or NFL tickets. I know that this may sound pretty good as you read it. Execution is another thing. You have to sell it. If your guys don't get on board, they probably won't have the right attitude about it.
    I would be interested to hear what you ultimately come up with. Good luck.
  16. 496 BB

    496 BB Senior Member
    Messages: 789

    You got to rule with an iron fist. I wouldnt be putting up with that sh!t very long at all. I would sit their azz down the first time and talk to them about why they are there. Second time Id write em up and suspend. Third time Id demote them and fourth they would be gone out the door. There is NO reason why they should be costing you money if they were really in it for the betterment of the company. You dont need people like that.

    You need some kind of policy set in place and discuss it in a meeting on what the consequences will be. That way everyone will be on the same page. Trust me there will be FAR less instances after that meeting when they know they will be held accountable for their actions. Give em a pay cut via demotion and youll see how fast they get their sh!t together. Give em a review after 30 days or x amount of hours plowing to see if it warrant a promotion to their previous post.

    IMO you should not have to offer incentives for people to do their damn jobs. If they need an incentive fire them and they will realize that working and collecting a paycheck is incentive enough.

    You cant show weakness or lack of accountability on your part of they will continue to abuse your equipment because they dont give a sh!t because they know nothing will happen. Grab the bulls by the horns and show them whos boss.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2011
  17. zabMasonry

    zabMasonry Senior Member
    from vt
    Messages: 100

    In general I think that disciplinary action is an awfully slippery slope, and has a very large possibility for things to get really messy really quick. A disgruntled ex-employee can do a lot of damage very very quickly. Weather it be legal action (however ungrounded), or just bad mouthing your company, it can add up very quickly. All that said, there are definitely times when somebody just needs to be canned.

    By definition this industry is very accident prone. That is not going away. I guess that I would like to see people learning, and hopefully avoiding. Perhaps do an incident report on each event and post it at the shop (probably without including names). People love to read about other people F*ing other stuff up. The idea is that its a non-monetary dis-incentive and hopefully also gets other folks to avoid making the same mistake.
  18. DGODGR

    DGODGR Senior Member
    from s/w co
    Messages: 639

    IMO it's just not that easy. This can work, as I'm sure that many already have this in place. Even with the bad economy you won't find a very long line, of qualified help, that wants to work the hours required by this job. I too have subscribed to your theory (as a parent, and an employer). Once you have enough employees, or become a parent, you quickly learn that the times you used the positive reinforcement were the more successful ones. I ceratinly agree with implementing the part of your post that I hi-lighted. You must have consequences. I just think it works better when you have incentives too.
  19. Dr Who

    Dr Who Senior Member
    Messages: 637

    this is true in every business, from snow plowing to building a bridge...most employees do not take care of the company equipment, that is unless you make them pay for damages they do. I admit that it would be hard to prove if something broke due to age/over use, but if its something that screams the employee did it out of carelessness, then you should be able to make them pay for it.

    If anything, tell them that if they break something it will come out of there pay, no matter if you can or can not take it out. It may just be enough to make them a little more careful
  20. Dr Who

    Dr Who Senior Member
    Messages: 637