It is November 2013 and you’ve received notification that there is an insurance claim, or worse, a slip-and-fall lawsuit. Oh, and this incident occurred in December 2011.
Can you tell the story of what occurred on that property, to the minute, nearly two years later? You’ll need to do this throughout the case. Those are the details a plaintiff’s attorney is hoping you can’t recall.
Key documentation that protects you is gained before the job starts, and ends well after it’s completed. Let me explain.
Documentation is critical. Unfortunately, it is also your best protection in the event of slip-and-fall lawsuit.
In a perfect world, Randy Strait would use liquid deicer 100 percent of the time. It doesn’t leave a residue like solid salt does. Plus, you can pretreat a site with it and create a bond so that the ice won’t adhere to the pavement. With salt, the wind can blow it away, or cars can drive over it and crush it and make it an unsightly mess.
“A storm that you thought was five hours away ends up being a whole day away, and now you come off looking really bad for laying down all this salt where cars are crushing it and the wind picks up and it starts to blow away,” says Strait, president of Arctic Snow and Ice Control in Frankfort, Ill.
Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world, and we know the snow business is anything but predictable and tidy. Liquid deicer has its disadvantages, too. Strait cautions that when you use liquid calcium chloride for deicing versus anti-icing, it becomes very slick prior to activating. Grains of salt, however, act like sand and provide instant traction. Another disadvantage of liquid is that you can’t visually see how much you’re putting down versus solid, which you can see sitting atop the ice. But GPS-driven units can help make sure operators put down the correct amount.
Still, the fact is that only three percent of Arctic’s anti-icing stockpile is liquid. And that’s simply because of the costs associated with liquid material – primarily from having to transport it to sites.
“With grain salt, you can have piles strategically placed in your area. We have 35 and a wheel loader at each location,” Strait says. “But if I were to switch over to liquid and you have to have big tanks to store it, where are those tanks? At your headquarters? And that presents a big problem for me geographically because I can’t have all 73 of my trucks driving all the way back to the yard and then back out to the site. Nor can I put tanks on every site because then I would need an engine or electricity to drive it, and now the costs are very high.”
Strait’s liquid product is dedicated to major jobs that demand a non-corrosive product. His bulk salt is enhanced or “pretreated and prewet” with either corn starch, magnesium, beet juice or a chloride product.
“The reason we do that is it brings the salt to lower temperatures for melting performance and it also keeps it soft,” Strait says. “One of the problems with salt trucks is that if you get big chunks the size of bricks, they can clog up your whole system.”
Strait’s advice for other contractors is to not go “all out” on liquid deicer; rather, use it selectively on sites where they have a long history and know exactly how much bulk salt they normally spread there. “Put a real good operator on it who you’re in communication with and watch the results,” he advises. “Find out what the previous costs were versus the current costs, and then you can make an educated decision.”
It’s always good to have some liquid in your arsenal, Strait says, just in case grain salt is in short supply. Arctic cured its own salt shortage problem by building domes that can hold 300 to 500 semi truck loads each.
A nice mix. Mike Jones, president and CEO of True North Outdoor in Kansas City, Kan., agrees that rock salt can leave quite a mess, especially if the storm misses you.
“Liquid deicer allows you to avoid the issue of granular salt having to be swept up,” he says. “With a melting agent, you can utilize it well ahead of the storm and there is a minimal amount of cleanup, plus it performs better.” Plus, aside from using it as a stand-alone product, you can apply it to solid product to increase the solid product’s effectiveness and extend its reach.
“Liquid with some kind of agent like beet juice or cornstarch lowers the corrosion of rock salt and acts as an adhering agent to create a liquid product that sticks to salt,” Jones says. “The rock salt becomes a carrying agent of better melting chloride, which kickstarts it.”
That’s exactly the reason why Jim Sebert of Sebert Landscaping Co. in Chicago is in his second year of a trial run using liquid deicer to extend his solid product applications and create a longer residual effect. He purchased three or four salt spreaders last year that incorporate liquid with rock salt, and while he didn’t get a whole lot of feedback due to the mild winter, he said that the results were positive overall.
“On the few test sites where we applied it, the biggest difference was that we got more of an immediate reaction when applying the granular product with liquid. It sped up the process,” he said. “I think this is the trend we’re heading toward. Municipalities have been using some sort of liquid for quite a bit of time now as a pretreatment to a snow event.”
One handy tip Jones has is to use the correct spray nozzles for liquid. Different nozzles have different applications, for example pre-treatment versus blanket application. Jones also cautions against over applying as it can result in slickness. Finally, he learned firsthand to use a snow-grade liquid for deicing versus a dust control liquid – an entirely different application where liquids are popular.
“Dust control liquids need to have less than one percent solids in them, where they’ll precipitate out and turn into gel,” he says. “I once accidentally used dust control liquid that gelled up on bridges I was doing for the city and it was a disaster.” Like Sebert, Jones says contractors who are new to liquids should take baby steps first.
“Start conservatively. Use some liquid at your own house and learn what it can do. Also, you could ask some customers if they would mind you putting some down for free on their property to see what it can do. In a way, you’re selling the customer on it by doing that, too.”
The author is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.
1. Avant 2-Stage Snow Blower
The pitch: Paired with a rear-attaching salt spreader, the Avant is a compact option for snow removal.
- The Avant 2-Stage Snow Blower is available in 48 inches or 60 inches.
- Compatible with the Avant 600 or 700 series machines.
- The Avant 600 or 700 series can be equipped with the DLX cab, which is road-ready and has heat/AC for use year-round.
For more information: www.AvantTecnoUSA.com
2. BOSS VBX Spreader
The pitch: BOSS Snowplow introduces the VBX Spreader, its first V-Box Spreader featuring an 8-ft. poly hopper with 2 cubic yards of capacity.
- Customers can choose from both pintle chain and auger feed options.
- The VBX Spreader’s stainless steel drive train components are corrosion resistant for reduced maintenance and longer life.
- Both the pintle chain and the auger system feature a heavy-duty design for long life and reliability.
For more information: www.bossplow.com
3. Buyers Products Kabgard Window Protector
The pitch: Buyers Products introduces the newly designed Kabgard window protector to fit full-size pickup truck cabs.
- Kabgard window protectors provide a barrier that protects from items rubbing on, scratching or breaking cab windows.
- Supports common lighting accessories, including spot light, beacon and several models of light bars.
- Kabgard window protector mounts in existing stake pockets for quick, no-drill installation.
For more information: www.buyersproducts.com
4. Coil SumoSprings
The pitch: SuperSprings International have introduced a solution for light-duty vehicles equipped with snowplows, replacement bumpers, winches and hitches.
- New Coil SumoSprings slide between the turns of front and rear coil springs.
- Since their proprietary microcellular urethane material offers a progressive spring rate, they provide extra support for the suspension only when needed.
- The short, cylindrical Coil SumoSprings feature an “H”-shaped cross-section that helps hold them in place.
For more information: www.supersprings.com
5. JRB Snow Pusher
The pitch: The JRB Snow Pusher by Paladin Attachments works with skid-steers, loader backhoes and wheel loaders to remove up to 26 yards of snow at a time from roads, parking lots and airport runways.
- Its box construction gathers snow inside as it moves forward.
- Features a Universal Coupling System that attaches to any OEM machine.
- Solid steel forks prevent rusting caused by frequent exposure to wet snow.
For more information: www.paladinattachments.com.
6. North American Salt Co. Ice Melters
The pitch: North American Salt Co., a subsidiary of Compass Minerals, announces the launch of IceAway Turbo and IceAway Turbo Plus, two fast-acting, high-performance ice melters for commercial deicing professionals.
- Formulated with a blend of magnesium chloride, calcium chloride and sodium chloride.
- IceAway Turbo melts ice in temperatures as low as minus seven degrees Fahrenheit (minus 21 degrees Celsius).
- IceAway Turbo Plus works in temperatures as low as minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 degrees Celsius) and resists refreezing.
For more information: www.nasalt.com
7. SnowEx’s New Rotary Broom
The pitch: SnowEx introduces a new walk-behind rotary broom with a plow attachment for snow removal and other cleanup applications.
- Powered by a 160cc Honda GXV Series engine, the SS-4000 is designed to provide productivity for sidewalk applications.
- Features a floating pivotal broom head to adjust the trajectory of snow.
- The 16-in.-diameter broom is centrally driven, allowing the unit to work against obstacles from either the left- or right-hand side.
For more information: www.snowexproducts.com
8. Terramac RT9 Customized Cleats
The pitch: Terramac has introduced custom-made, removable cleats for its RT9 rubber track crawler carrier.
- The steel cleats provide a solution for contractors working in icy or snow-covered mountainous terrain, on extremely muddy ground or whenever additional traction is required.
- Exerting 4.9 psi when fully loaded, the RT9 can be used on sensitive ground conditions.
- Contractors are able to add or remove the cleats themselves in about an hour depending on the quantity
For more information: www.terramac.com
9. WESTERN MVP 3 V-plow Snow Plow
The pitch: The WESTERN MVP 3 V-plow provides a whole new slant on V-plow performance and durability.
- Blades are available in 7½-, 8½- and 9½-ft. widths in either powder-coated steel or poly material.
- The enhanced center hinge features three connection points for added strength, plus a larger 1-1/4-in. diameter heat-treated center pin means more durability.
- Standard UltraLock double-acting cylinders hold the wings firmly in place for clean back-dragging.
For more information: www.westernplows.com.
I was in Las Vegas last month at the WaterSmart Innovations conference. You can read more about the news on page 8. I got to catch up with a lot of folks, but a conversation I had with Warren Gorowitz from Ewing stuck out.
We were talking about conservation and technology and their relationship to the managed landscape, and about the (sometimes) negative perception of landscapers by many at the conference who came from water authorities and regulatory agencies.
And Warren said this: “Plants don’t waste water. People do.”
I told him he should put that on a bumper sticker, because he’s absolutely right. The water problem isn’t going away – the weather’s only going to get drier and water more expensive. And there are three basic solutions to that problem: technology, science and human behavior.
We can spend all day talking about turf versus shrubs versus rocks and the various ET rates at a job site, and how to best monitor that site’s water use in real-time, but a person decides what to install in the landscape, and how that landscape gets its water. A stand of turf doesn’t waste water – it uses just as much as it’s given. And suppliers can develop all the coolest technology to track water use and report it and we can spend millions improving the water infrastructure in the country, but at the end of the day, people – landscapers and HOA boards and homeowners – are the ones with their hands on the spigot.
Doug Bennett, conservation manager at the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the brainchild behind the WaterSmart conference told me this story. One of SWNA’s projects examined irrigation system efficiency for Las Vegas homes. The average distribution uniformity of the 220 systems tested in town was about 40 percent. So the agency came in, improved those systems and got that DU average up to about 60 percent.
Bennett went back a few years later to see what kind of water savings those homes had seen since the system improvements. Here’s what he found: nothing. No savings at all.
The homeowners used the same – if not more – water. Human behavior strikes again.
So we have a people problem. But don’t throw up your hands yet. Landscapers are well-positioned to help during the water crisis. They are still the main stewards of their customers’ green spaces, and called on to make improvements meant to save water. Think drip systems, water audits and wholesale landscape renovations.
You combine the technology and science and human behavior to solve the people problems.