Snow & Ice: Plowing Techniques

Snow & Ice Plowing Techniques Consulting & Training

How a facility is plowed, what type of techniques and equipment are used, and what the underlying hardscape is composed of can all have a major impact on the overall safety and effectiveness of the effort.

Whether you invest in the necessary equipment and materials to do the job yourself, or you choose to hire an outside company, how a property is plowed and what equipment and materials are used will determine the likelihood of property damage, serious maintenance issues, and the chances of serious injury accidents.

For instance, skimming a parking lot improperly can actually create substantial hazards, turning asphalt into a skating rink more dangerous than driving or trudging through snow that should have been left behind if the job was not going to be done correctly.

John Allin and Lisa Rose have spent over 50 years developing and testing snow management strategies in one of the most intense, lake-effect, snow-belt regions in the world:  The south shores of North America's Great Lake Erie.

Proper Plowing Techniques: Snow and Ice Removal

The best plowing techniques will depend upon the type of equipment being used and the underlying surface. For example, straight plows and v-plows should not be used the same way.

Some general issues include:

  • Wind: Absent contravening circumstances, snow should be plowed downwind to prevent it from drifting back across the lot, which can create visibility hazards and other issues.
  • Angle plowing: Understand when straight plowing has an advantage over angle-plowing and use the correct technique for the circumstances.
  • Backdragging: Understand when and how to best use this technique, which is most often used to drag snow away from walkways, buildings, or other obstructions.
  • Deep Snow: Know when and how to use V-, Scoop and Angle plow positions is critical to effective plowing. Raising the plow can help move deeper snow without overloaded equipment. However, you must be careful not to leave compacted snow or icy conditions in your wake.
  • Wet Snow: Can be particularly hazardous because of the likelihood of freezing.
  • Finish: Once started, a plowing job should not be stopped until it is finished. Partially plowed areas can quickly cause icing and other dangerous conditions to form.
  • Maintenance: Plow maintenance, including hydraulic fluid, a sharp cutting edge, and adequate tires and vehicle brakes are critical components of safe plowing.
  • Obstructions: Curbs, parking stops, signage, and other obstructions beneath the snow can not only create hazards while plowing, they can leave dangerous conditions behind, such as loose rebar or crumbling asphalt. Know the property you are plowing and pay particular attention to ground hazards.
  • Snow piles: Never pile snow on someone else's property, on a street or sidewalks, atop another structure, or near infrastructure like dumpsters, electric boxes, or fire hydrants.
  • Drainage:  Understand how a property drains and pile snow accordingly, paying particular attention not to obstruct culverts, drains, or catch basins.
  • Property lines: Know where the property lines are and never plow snow across the road, which is illegal in many places.
  • Visibility: Be sure you are not creating visual obstructions by piling snow near entrances or in areas where motorists and pedestrians need to be able to see.
  • Sidewalks: Should be shoveled first so that the snow can be plowed away.

When it comes to ice melting products, proper application is equally critical.

  • Choose correctly: Some products reduce the temperature at which ice melts, which prevents formation, while others just improve traction.
  • Correct application: Different products are best for use in different situations. Some, for example, are better on asphalt than on concrete, others are safe for pets, still others are best for sub-zero temperatures.
  • Substrate: Know what products to use on gravel, concrete, asphalt or other underlying material. Some are better than others. Your choice of product will impact both its effectiveness and the long-term maintenance needs of both hardscapes and drain infrastructure.
  • Correct intervals: Some products last longer than others. Understanding how and when to apply a product is critical to overall effectiveness and safety.

To be fair, we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to issues involving plowing and the application of ice melting and traction products. At Allin / Rose, we put more than half a century of knowledge and experience to work for you.

Allin / Rose Consulting, Inc., is located in Erie, Pennsylvania.

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