Keeping Ice Away with True Grit
Chris Pickles, operations director with Rentokil Initial environmental services subsidiary, Ambius, provides guidance for facilities managers on winter gritting.
The Met Office in the United Kingdom has warned of freezing temperatures, as cold blasts of weather are predicted to hit the country from the Arctic. With these harsher cold spells arriving, ensuring the safety of employees and visitors should be a priority for every business.
Whilst ice and snow aren’t everyday hazards for most parts of the UK, businesses need to be prepared for almost any possibility – we only need to cast our minds back a couple of years to recall the last time snow swept across vast portions the country and lingered for many days.
Facilities managers must have a contingency plan in place for cold weather and act fast to implement it. Cold weather creates an increased risk that customers and employees could slip or trip in the premises, which in turn gives rise to legal liability. Proper planning, including access to professionals who can help in the case of unexpected weather is essential to ensuring your site can remain ice free.
Gritting whereabouts and timings
When it comes to spreading grit, proper planning is vital to ensure it is comprehensive without being wasteful. Facilities managers should prioritise the main access routes and thoroughfares into a premises. This includes all entrances and exits, car parks, or any popular routes from nearby train stations or bus stops. For schools, any outdoor areas where students or teaching staff will be walking between lessons should be treated. If there has been snowfall, all snow must be cleared properly before grit is distributed for it to work effectively.
Timing is crucial when it comes to effective gritting. Laying down grit too early can mean it gets picked up by the wind and blown away and wasted. But leave it too late and surfaces may have already frozen, presenting a risk for visitors and staff.
The recommended time to grit a site is overnight, before the temperature hits its lowest, meaning the site is ready for when the next working day begins.
Season it with salt
Gritting is the most common and effective way to prevent ice-induced slips and potential injuries. The importance of gritting is highly recognised amongst councils aiming to preserve public safety on the roads. In total, local councils ordered about 1.4 million tonnes of salt ahead of this winter gritting season. This is more than was used through all of last winter (1.2 million tonnes) and 200,000 more than they had in stock ahead of last year’s gritting season.
Grit is rock salt, mined from ancient underground salt mines. It works by lowering the freezing point of the ice and moisture on the ground. This prevents ice from forming and helps to melt the existing ice on the ground too.
When to seek professional help
It is difficult to know exactly when an icy or snowy spell will strike. To be confident that you are prepared for this, it is best to use a professional gritting service to ensure your site is properly gritted.
The top gritting services operate using a 24/7 Met Office weather watch solution, and will be deployed when potentially hazardous weather conditions are predicted – this is typically temperatures of below 2 or 3°C. On arrival at the site, experts will identify the priority areas for treatment and often clear snow if necessary.
It’s also important to consider the environment when choosing tools, equipment and vehicles. If used incorrectly, rock salt can damage grassed areas, flowers and foliage. Professional gritting experts will work with an appropriate level of care to ensure the process is managed as quickly, safely and as efficiently as possible. They will also provide things like grit bins, bags of salt and snow shovels to give your business the capability to manage and lay grit yourself if needed.
When snow and ice are forecast, ensuring a safe and slip-free environment for employees and visitors is fundamental to create a positive experience to your premises. Having the right gritting services in place will minimise any disruption while ensuring the safety of your employees, customers and passers-by.