October 15, 2011
The three major concerns of companies that conduct winter maintenance services are costs, effective levels of salt application and liability exposure.

There’s now reason for optimism to resolve all three of these situations. Research is currently underway to determine a standard for winter maintenance on parking lot applications.

Robert Roszell has extensive experience in winter maintenance, particularly direct liquid application. A member of the Snow and Ice Management Sector Group at Landscape Ontario, Roszell was instrumental in initiating a research project through the association with the University of Waterloo.

“There has long been a concern with the environmental effects of road salts and the lack of standards in the application process,” says Roszell.  

The research project is focusing on four specific objectives. These include: determining conditions that affect the performance of rock salts, brines and alternative chemicals; optimum application rates; creating standard application forms and rates for treatments on parking lots and sidewalks; creating models that will forecast pavement surface conditions, including residual salts, snow and ice cover and friction levels under specific weather and treatment schedules; and developing guidelines for material selection, application rates and treatment strategies.  

Previous tests on application rates and methods have mostly focused on highway applications. As well, many of those research efforts took place in laboratories, offering few defendable guidelines for parking lots and sidewalks, resulting in negative exposure for operators slip-and-fall law suits. The result has forced many operators to apply excessive amounts of salt to avoid expensive legal problems.

The project is divided into three phases over a period of three years.

At the conclusion of the study, expected sometime in 2013, it is anticipated that the uniform data will provide operators with a document that will not only reduce the environmental side-effects of heavy salt applications, but minimize the dangers of legal exposure and business risk.

The field tests under the guidance of the association will involve designated sites maintained by volunteer contractors using their own equipment, and committed to keeping detailed records. The project will also employ monitoring technologies such as web cams, friction measurement devices and salinity meters.
Another goal of the project, once the results are adopted, is the development of training workshops through Landscape Ontario that will focus on winter road maintenance. “This will have a profound long lasting impact on our industry,” says Roszell.