Keeping Walkways Free Of Snow And Ice

Steps to maintain preparation for foul weather events this winter.

Preventing winter slip-and-fall accidents has never been more important for in-house custodial professionals and building service contractors (BSCs) responsible for keeping walkways free of snow and ice.

The cost of effective deicing materials and time spent maintaining safe walks, steps and entryways is minor compared to the risks associated with slippery walkways and the damage accidents can inflict on businesses.

Today, the need for safety must be balanced with other important business considerations, including the cost efficiency of deicing operations and their impact on walkways, buildings and landscaping.

Also important are society’s rising expectations regarding human health, accessibility and environmental impact.

Improved, more responsible snow and ice control practices are among the ways facilities can respond to meet the entire range of requirements.

Effective snow and ice control means more than simply having properly maintained snow removal equipment and deicer material on hand.

Every facility or service provider should have a plan for managing snow and ice and have staff ready to implement it for preventative action when a storm is forecast or for speedy removal of ice and snow once foul weather arrives.

Anticipate Special Facility Requirements

Begin by understanding facility needs and predict how key locations will be impacted by snow and ice events.

  • Where is pedestrian traffic heaviest?
  • Where do vehicles move, pause or park?
  • What routes do people follow when moving between locations?
  • Where is access for the disabled most critical?
  • Are certain locations more prone to trouble due to exposure to weather, melt runoff or vehicle traffic?
  • Do sloped surfaces such as wheelchair or automobile ramps pose an elevated risk to pedestrians or motorists?
  • Are there visibility issues related to poor lighting or blowing snow?

It is also important to assess the total surface area of pavement you will have to maintain and what equipment, materials and manpower will be required.

Here are some tips to prepare for snow and ice removal this winter.

Plan For All Conditions

Be ready for anything.

Although some regions may experience only occasional snow and ice, ice melting programs should prepare for the uncommon events that cause the most trouble.

Businesses and individuals in any region expect that sidewalks, steps, entryways and parking lots will remain open and safe during bad weather and will be quickly returned to ice- and snow-free condition after a storm.

Make Mechanical Removal A Priority

The most economical and lowest impact method of snow and ice control is mechanical removal during and after winter storm events.

Prompt removal of snow and ice from walkways and parking lots minimizes compaction by foot and vehicle traffic.

Mechanically removing loose snow before applying ice melter enables the deicer to more quickly penetrate and break the bond between remaining ice and the underlying pavement.

This can reduce the amount of deicer required and the potential for impact on walkways, buildings and the environment.

Apply Ice Melter Properly

The most effective, responsible and economical snow and ice control programs apply the smallest amount of deicer needed to penetrate ice and disrupt its bond to pavement.

Calibration of application equipment is important for cost-effective product use and to minimize introduction of ice melter into the environment.

Compared to hand application, spreaders provide more even distribution patterns, help avoid formation of deicer piles that can lead to indoor tracking mess and help make sure the proper amount of deicer is used — potentially reducing waste by as much as 50 percent.

This is especially important where large quantities of deicers are applied from vehicles across broad surface areas.

For smaller areas like entryways and steps, use of a handheld, mechanical dispersing spreader is typically a far better choice than using a simple scoop.

Follow the application instructions on product packaging to avoid over-applying deicer.

For example, solid calcium chloride ice melters should be distributed evenly and given time to loosen the bond between ice and pavement.

Then the resulting slushy ice should be removed mechanically.

Application of calcium chloride should start shortly after snow begins to facilitate easy mechanical removal and prevent ice buildup.

Removal of thick ice may require higher application rates to penetrate and undercut the ice layer.

Use Anti-icing Treatments To Prevent Slippery Conditions

When foul winter weather is in the forecast, ice melter materials can be applied in advance as anti-icing treatments to keep subsequent freezing rain or light snowfall from bonding to pavement.

This may eliminate the need to mechanically remove light accumulations and can make removal of heavy snow and ice faster and easier.

Don’t use anti-icing if rain or freezing rain is predicted because the treatment may wash away.

Over-application of liquid anti-icers can result in slippery conditions.

In storm events with heavier snowfall and dropping temperatures, anti-icing may not be effective in preventing ice and snow from bonding to the surface.

Respond Quickly And Reliably

Winter maintenance plans should be designed to provide clear and safe conditions for the first vehicle and pedestrian traffic to arrive during and after a storm.

Adequate supplies of ice melting material should be available for immediate access.

Maintenance crews should be trained and ready to remove snow and ice quickly and properly.

Standards for crew response and performance of winter maintenance activities should include adequate time for deicer to penetrate ice and loosen it for mechanical removal.

This will help eliminate the tendency to over-apply ice melter in an attempt to achieve faster results, a wasteful practice that may cause large amounts of residual deicer to remain on the surface after snow and ice have melted, increasing the potential for indoor tracking and environmental impact.

Choose The Right Ice Melter

Several performance characteristics should guide the selection of an ice melter, but two are particularly important:

  • Reliable Cold Temperature Performance — Will the deicer perform well in the coldest temperatures you may experience?
  • Ice Melting Speed — How quickly will the deicer melt ice to minimize pedestrian exposure to dangerous conditions?

Avoid Excess

The goal of any ice melting program is to minimize slip-and-fall hazards using the least material.

When used excessively, all ice melting materials can have an impact on the natural environment, lawns and shrubbery, metal architectural features and interior flooring.

Excessive application also increases costs.

Using a faster deicer that performs well at low temperatures reduces the tendency to over apply.

Calcium chloride, in particular, is known for its cold temperature performance.

It has a lowest effective temperature of -25 degrees F (-32 degrees C), which is below that of other common deicers.

Calcium chloride also releases a significant amount of heat as it dissolves in contact with snow and ice.

This speeds melting action at lower temperatures, making calcium chloride even more effective in extremely cold winter conditions.

Effective Ice Control Addresses All Business Needs

Advances in snow and ice control practices have made it easier for custodial professionals and building service providers to minimize the hazards of ice and snow and maintain access for pedestrians and motorists.

By using the right deicing products and following best practices for their application, business needs for cost savings and reduced impact on buildings and the environment can also be met.

Together, that’s a robust prescription to meet the challenges presented by the forces of nature and a demanding business climate.

Posted On July 13, 2014

Greg MacDonnell

General Manager with Occidental Chemical Corporation (OxyChem)

Greg MacDonnell is a general manager with Occidental Chemical Corporation (OxyChem), responsible for calcium chloride sales, marketing and business management. His more than 25 year career in the chemical industry includes 15 years specializing in calcium chloride. MacDonnell is a Business Administration graduate of St. Lawrence College and was instrumental in the development of a new website dedicated to sharing best practices for sidewalk ice melting at


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