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December 18, 2019

Snow and ice management

Sean Antolik

Winter is here and the snow is falling. Is your snow and ice plan up to date? Do you have one? In case this winter caught you off guard here are a few key points to focus on in preparation for this snow and ice season:

Snow Removal Plan

Ensure your snow and ice plan contains service level expectations. Do the plows hit the ground with a dusting? One inch of snow? Two inches? When is salt application required? Establishing this expectation will give your contractors or facilities management a defined starting point for the call in and salt application process.

It is also important that your snow removal team understand what needs to be hit first, most frequently, and what can wait for later. This is where putting together a snow removal priority map comes into play. This can be done by building your map around your emergency action plan (EAP) and fire protection plan (FPP). You’ll want to prioritize roadways, parking lots, sidewalks, entrances, and service areas on your property in relation to your EAP and FPP. Also, placing caution signage indicating slippery conditions at parking lot entrances, sidewalks, and stairways can help keep safety at the forefront of workers' mind as they start their workday.

Ice Management

Did you know one teaspoon of salt pollutes five gallons of water? Here are a few questions to consider to maximize your salt use while minimizing environmental impacts:

  • Does your contractor or facility management staff calibrate their equipment? This step reduces the environmental impacts and cost of salt use. You can stretch your salting budget further and avoid running out before the season is over if you know how much salt you’re putting down. Calibration methods vary by equipment and should be independently calibrated per vehicle. 

  • Have you spoken with your contractor or staff about anti-icing? This is a proactive approach to ice management. It can increase safety and is effective and cost-efficient when used correctly. Anti-icing is like greasing a pan before cooking. It helps stop snow from sticking to your sidewalks and parking lots.

  • Is your salt pre-wetted? Salt needs to be dissolved in order to melt snow and ice. This solution of salt and liquid is called salt brine. Dry salt relies on friction from tires and foot traffic along with solar energy to form the salt brine solution required to melt snow and ice. Treated salt works faster and generally you can use one-third less than dry salt. Keep in mind the goal is to penetrate the snow and ice to break the bond and allow for mechanical removal by shovel or plow and not to melt it all away.

Other Considerations for this Snow and Ice Season

  • One 50 lb. bag of salt can contaminate over 10,000 gallons of water
  • Do not use dry road salt below 15° F. This wastes time and money - use treated salt below 15° F
  • Use spreaders instead of scoops to apply salt. You will use 50 percent less salt without reducing the level of safety
  • You can’t manage what you don’t measure – calibrate and record salt usage
  • Using 50/50 salt/sand mix is generally half right or half wrong. Using a salt/sand mix leads to over application of both materials
  • Sand can be a short-term traction provider in very cold weather