Living in Uniontown, Pa., which lies in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, Walt Grimes, owner, Fayette Rental Solutions, knows winters can be quite treacherous. That’s why he is a stickler for preparation and safety protocols.
“The weather can hit us hard, especially from January through the beginning of March. During that time, we usually get about a two- or three-week period where it is pretty gruesome — below-zero temps,” says Grimes, who serves as ARA of Pennsylvania vice president. “If we get a catastrophic amount of snow, my phone is ringing off the hook, so we have to be ready.”
That begins with equipment
- Doing winter maintenance. “That is a large portion of what we do, using fuel stabilizers and the right coolants for the machines to eliminate any equipment failures,” he says.
- Getting equipment rental-ready. Besides prepping all equipment and delivery trucks, Grimes makes sure to have a wide variety of generators and heaters. “Mobile homes are popular here, so a lot of lines break and freeze. We talk with our customers about carbon monoxide, different fuels the heaters can use and such,” Grimes says.
Because two neighboring counties rely on his county’s water source, Grimes has two unique winter rentals. “When the ice gets thick on the river, they can’t get in, so we bring in the air compressors to stop the water from freezing and clogging up the inlets for filtration and use the hot water pressure washers to supply hot suits for the scuba divers,” he says.
Getting staff ready
- Having appropriate apparel. Grimes supplies heated jackets, subzero gloves and boots for his team of 25.
- Reviewing safe lifting techniques and slips-and-falls prevention. “We go over this at the beginning of the season,” he says.
- Providing hands-on winter driving techniques. Grimes’ team took the American Rental Association (ARA) Box Truck Training and spends time discussing safe winter driving techniques. Both he and his son have their commercial driver’s license. “We take the guys on road trips and go with some on deliveries. It might be OK weather here, but we are at the foot of a mountain. In a five-minute drive, you can change elevation 2,500 ft.,” he says.
Ensuring the facility is safe for employees and customers
- Removing snow. “We have plenty of salt and ice guard. We try hard to keep a very clean and safe parking lot for everyone,” Grimes says, adding that the same applies to the roof to prevent large snow accumulations and ice jams.
- Preventing indoor slips and falls. “Keeping the inside of the building safe with rugs, mopping, signage and such is everyone’s responsibility,” he says.
This strategy has worked. He has not had a winter slip-and-fall accident or a workers’ comp claim. “We do as much maintenance as possible, with as much care as possible, and see everything from our customers’ viewpoint,” he says.