4 FM quick reads on snow and ice removal
1. Snow and Ice Management: Focus on Equipment
Equipment, materials, and training are three key components of a comprehensive snow and ice management plan. Buildings and grounds undergo myriad changes during non-winter months, whether it is new construction projects, renovations, or changes to landscapes and hard-surface areas. These changes impact snow and ice operations, so managers need to ensure their plans still provide safe, efficient, and reliable snow and ice removal.
Equipment often is the first place managers start in their review of snow and ice operations. Snow and ice removal is tough work, and it can take its toll on equipment, including plows, skid-steer loaders, utility vehicles, dump trucks, and a range of attachments.
An equipment breakdown during a heavy snowstorm can create a stressful situation in the field. To ensure the equipment can withstand the rigors of snow and ice removal, operators and mechanics should perform preventive maintenance related to the most important areas of the equipment, including:
Hydraulics. Check hydraulic cylinders for stress cracks in the paint, leaking or bent fittings, and damaged hoses. It is important for mechanics to eliminate contaminants from the hydraulic-unit systems because contaminants can turn into rust and sludge while in storage if mechanics leave them in the system.
Electrical components. Mechanics should check and protect motors, wires, solenoids, switches, and connections to ensure they operate correctly when winter arrives. Using a quality rust inhibitor also can protect electrical systems from damage.
Mechanical and structural components. Mechanics should inspect each unit from top to bottom. They should check for cracks, bent pins, broken cutting edges, missing or broken bolts, twisted framework, and other cosmetic damage. Mechanics then need to repair any damage they find.
2. Snow and Ice Removal: Pre-Treatment Strategies
This is Chris Matt, Managing Editor of Print & E-Media with Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's tip is strategies for clearing snow and ice more effectively.
To make clearing snow and ice easier for grounds crews, managers more often pre-treat sidewalks and other paved surfaces with anti-icing products. These products help keep exterior surfaces clear and safe for vehicle and pedestrian traffic. With a better understanding of the evolution of these products, managers can develop a more successful game plan to prepare with confidence for the coming winter season.
Professionals involved in snow and ice management have begun to move away from using exclusively granular materials and in many cases have adopted liquid anti-icing materials as the product of choice. Why? As a pre-treatment on roadways, parking lots, and walkways, anti-icing products tend to perform better in preventing snow and ice from bonding to paved surfaces.
Liquid anti-icing products coat the surface of roads and parking lots. Once precipitation starts, the melting process begins. The primary objective of these chemicals is to keep snow and ice from bonding to the pavement, which provides better traction for automobiles and allows for easier removal of snow and ice down to the paved surface.
Salt, also know as sodium chloride or NaCl, is the most common and inexpensive deicer and has been the industry standard for almost a century. Unfortunately, NaCl as a deicing agent can harm the environment, including landscaped areas near pathways and parking lots, and it can cause erosion.
Today, it is common for crews to wet NaCl with a liquid agent to increase its effectiveness and reduce the amount needed. Converting rock salt to brine also is more common. Crews should never use NaCl products around electrical boxes, structural materials or anywhere safety is a priority because of the corrosion it can create.
3. Snow and Ice Removal: Questions for Contractors
This is Chris Matt, Managing Editor of Print & E-Media with Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's tip is communicating with contractors for snow and ice removal.
Snow and ice management is often difficult and dangerous, and contractors have more than just one property to maintain each time a storm hits. Because of these issues, it is important for managers to communicate clearly with the contractor regarding the customer's needs and performance expectations.
Contractors who know the business will have a specific communication plan in place to keep customers informed and up to date when these events occur. These plans often include phone calls, onsite visits and updates, e-mails, and even updates on the company's website. Minimally, contractors must keep managers informed about when crews will serve the property, as well as changes or issues that arise.
A prepared service provider also should have a written process in place for responding to any winter storm. They have prepared equipment and scheduled routes, and a dispatcher coordinates all equipment to needed areas. When evaluating potential contractors, managers need to ask if the company has a plan to respond to an event.
The most important step grounds managers can take when deciding which snow and ice contractor to hire is to find answers to important questions about the different aspects of snow removal, including:
• How long has the service provider been in business?
• Does the service provider carry proper insurance?
• Does the service provider use contracts?
• Has the contractor explained prices for services sufficiently?
• What specific services does the facility require?
• Does the contract clearly state these services?
• Can the contractor provide comparable references?
• Does the contractor have the necessary equipment and employees to manage the site?
• And, finally, does the contractor have detailed plans in place for responding to an event?
A professional and reputable snow contractor will be able to answer these questions. Communication is key when finalizing a contract, so managers must make sure they are hiring the right snow and ice professional.
4. Snow and Ice Removal: How to Price Services
This is Chris Matt, Managing Editor of Print & E-Media with Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's tip is pricing services for snow and ice removal.
Pricing services for snow and ice removal is one of the most difficult aspects of the business. Contractors must consider such factors as equipment, site size, job specifics, employee time, and weather conditions.
Contractors use a number of methods to determine prices, including per hour, per push, per season, and per inch. Understanding different pricing structures is essential for hiring the most appropriate contractor. Managers should ask candidates about the methods they use to price jobs and make sure it is the best method for keeping the property clear of snow and ice up to the desired standards.
While quality of service should take precedence over price, too often, this is not the case. When reviewing pricing from different contractors, managers must keep in mind the following reasons pricing can be difficult to understand and vary by contractor:
Preparation. Professional contractors are prepared for anything, which means they have invested in equipment, back-up equipment, personnel, and de-icing or anti-icing materials.
Level of difficulty. More obstructions, people and traffic on a property make it more difficult for the contractor to remove snow and ice.
Staffing. A major challenge for contractors is finding reliable workers who will do the job right. Contractors must invest considerable amounts of time and effort to recruit, retain and manage these employees.
Safety. In keeping properties accessible to the public during and after winter weather, contractors often work in dangerous conditions. Keeping the property secure with a safety-conscious, responsible contractor should be a top priority for managers.