It’s that time of the year when snow, sleet and ice are a fairly common occurrence in many parts of the country. Such weather conditions pose serious problems for business owners because walkways become slippery and increase the chances for employees and customers to fall.
While you can’t control the elements, you can reduce your liability by staying alert and eliminating hazards that cause falls. One such hazard is the accumulation of ice and snow that results because deicing measures were inadequate or not properly applied.
The first step in effectively deicing a walkway is to choose the correct treatment. When selecting chemicals to melt ice, keep the following points in mind:
- Rock salt is the most common method and the least expensive of the ice-melting chemicals. It is easy to find and can melt snow and ice until the temperature drops below 20є F. Rock salt, however, also releases a large amount of chloride when it dissolves. This chloride can pollute streams, rivers and lakes and kill vegetation. It also causes metal to corrode.
- Calcium chloride is a deicing agent that is manufactured in small, round, white pellets. It melts snow and ice even when the temperature falls below 0є F. It is much less toxic to plants than rock salt, but it can still damage them if applied too heavily.Calcium chloride can corrode concrete.
- Potassium chloride is a deicing chemical that doesn’t irritate skin or harm vegetation. However, it only melts ice when temperatures remain above 15є F. It must be combined with other chemicals to melt ice at lower temperatures.
- Magnesium chloride melts snow and ice until the temperature drops below -13є F. It releases nearly 40 percent less chloride into the environment than either rock salt or calcium chloride. It is also less damaging to concrete surfaces and is less toxic to plants, trees and shrubs.
Once you have selected your deicing agent, follow these tips from the Iowa Transportation Center at Iowa State University to be sure you maintain an ice and snow-free walkway:
- Apply deicing chemicals before a storm and remove snow/ice during and after the storm. Use plenty of deicing materials. Using too little will leave patches of ice.
- Aim for evaporation. If the water can drain and there is full sun or even reasonable wind, the ice will evaporate. Dry pavement is a clear indication there is no ice.
- Use a friction additive. Sand is the most popular because it’s inexpensive. Use enough to ensure that anyone walking on the surface has enough traction.
- Check and treat surfaces every morning, especially around snow piles where melting may have created new problem areas. Reevaluate during the day and re-treat as needed.
- Remember that a clean-looking surface is only “safe” if it is dry. A wet surface can quickly become icy in the shade or overnight.
- Train those responsible for safety procedures how to safely maintain walkway surfaces during icy/snowy weather.