March 15, 2012
By Bob Hodgins
Smart about Salt executive director

Terry MurphyNot much winter left — possibly — but the risks still exist as long as we are in the freeze-thaw period.

One of the greatest drivers of salt use is the fear of lawsuits. Many people address this fear by spreading a lot of salt; in fact we see areas coated with excessive amounts of salt. This keeps ice from forming, but it also damages infrastructure, pollutes the environment and wastes resources. It is important to use just enough salt to maintain safety while reducing the adverse affects from excessive salting.

In my November 2011 article, I wrote about managing drainage so as to eliminate icing situations. The first task of course is to identify these potential icing situations. It is always important to keep risk management foremost in your mind, especially during the winter.

In my home we have a mantra: Keep your PPA finely tuned. PPA stands for Potential Problem Analysis. This is simply a matter of looking at any situation and asking yourself, “What Could Go Wrong?”  These tend to be risk situations that if not properly handled, can lead to an unpleasant experience. When you train yourself and your team to scan your surroundings for potential risks, then your PPA alarm or spidey senses will go off when before problems arise. Then it is time to take proactive action to eliminate the problem, before someone is hurt.

Another key tool to effective risk management is having a variety of tools or best practices at your fingertips to address the different conditions that you will encounter during the winter. These best practices include:
  • Good weather forecasts
  • Knowledge and ability to interpret these forecasts
  • Ability to read pavement temperatures
  • Range of anti-icing chemicals to help prevent ice from forming
  • Range of application rates that can be adjusted for the precipitation and temperature conditions
  • Proper equipment for plowing and applying anti-icing materials
  • Properly trained decision-makers and operators to ensure that control strategies are properly selected and deployed
  • Monitoring to ensure that snow and ice control strategies are working
  • Good record keeping that documents all aspects of your snow and ice control program
  • Continual improvement to identify and manage risks with less salt

The Smart about Salt program offers training on these subject areas. There are three training sessions planned for March and April in Milton, Kitchener and Ottawa. Sign-up online at

We all benefit from proactive risk management. Injuries from slips and falls and vehicle accidents cost everyone in terms of pain and suffering, lawsuits, elevated insurance premiums, lost time, etc. By being better at identifying potential risks and proactively eliminating these risks, we can collectively reduce the number of injuries and claims and bring down overall costs, including insurance premiums.

Keeping thorough records about each site that your company treats, the specific risks that are being managed and the tactics that are used will help to improve operations and provide an historical record in the event of problem.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure, so it is critical to have good recordkeeping. Landscape Ontario’s Snow and Ice Group, along with its insurers and the Smart about Salt Council developed sample logs that are available to the industry, or consider designing or revising your own forms.  

As the winter winds down, we will have more freeze-thaw events, so it is important that we are all on our toes and have our PPA working.
You can learn more at or email Bob Hodgins at