‘I believe in the power of individuals working together, and this industry is poised to take the next steps in becoming more sophisticated and accountable in how we manage the chemicals we put on the ground each storm.’
By Phill Sexton
On June 10th, 2015, I emailed some of the SIMA staff with a last-minute project before the 18th annual Snow & Ice Symposium. We needed to fortify some marketing information and material for a new initiative I’d been spearheading related to salt application research. This email began a conversation internally that resulted in a solidification of the Sustainable Salt Initiative.
For the past 2 years, I’ve been helping to coordinate an extension of a comprehensive research project for salt application rates in parking lots and facilities. But first, a quick review. Over the past 5 years SIMA invested in and supported the Snow and Ice Control for Parking Lots, Platforms, and Sidewalks (SICOPS). SICOPS was a multi-year research project currently being undertaken by the iTSS Lab at the University of Waterloo, with support from many interested parties. The primary goal of this project is to address the common question that faces every winter maintenance contractor: What are the right snow and ice control methods, materials, and amounts of material that should be applied under specific winter weather conditions? In conjunction with this project, a new software and material tracking system dubbed Viaesys has been developed and is now available for the industry to utilize.
The SICOPS data has been compiled from multiple years of research, and we have a solid baseline on true application rates in controlled settings. SIMA and Viaesys are now working together to research application rates for snow professionals in real-world settings. This information will be coupled with research conducted by SICOPS to determine a helpful set of recommendations for salt applications that make business sense and proactively address environmental concerns associated with over-application. In line with this, the focus will be on developing local standards that fit the needs and expectations of a specific region and are backed by years of real-world data collected from that region.
Now we are entering a new and exciting phase of SIMA’s investment in research, where SIMA and Viaesys will focus on collection of core data from true field applications by snow contractors across North America. We are seeking leaders in the industry who are willing to invest in the process of collecting real-world data on salt application rates. After an initial investment in equipment, these contractors will be outfitted with web-based, GPS-enabled salt tracking systems that automatically tracks material as sites are serviced. Some supplemental marketing materials will be provided for research participants so they can share with clients and prospects. The long term vision for this initiative is to combine and utilize the data for developing practical, easy to implement winter maintenance guidelines that are potentially used for defending slip and fall claims in the courts.
It’s exciting to watch this evolve organically into an organized process to tackle one of our industry’s bigger issues. As the past few winters have shown, an over-reliance on salt alone can become an ‘Achilles heel’ for a snow business when supplies become limited or costs skyrocket. As an industry, we must hit this issue head-on before government intervention and public pressure pushes us into a reactive position. I believe in the power of individuals working together, and this industry is poised to take the next steps in becoming more sophisticated and accountable in how we manage the chemicals we put on the ground each storm. Learn more about the Sustainable Salt Initiative by: