Beaumont Services Corp.

The challenges of raised surfaces—such as multiple parking decks—can make snow removal especially difficult. But with a sharp eye on the weather and the pre-emptive use of liquid deicers, this facility hopes to keep employees working in the ER—rather than being admitted to it.

In the spring, when many companies assess turf and hard-surface damage after a long, cold winter, one question always comes up, “How could we have improved our operation to cut costs and save the corporation money?”

In the past 3 years, Beaumont Services, the Facilities Division of William Beaumont Hospital (Royal Oak, Mich.), has made some good things happen by planning strategic purchases, introducing snow-policy procedures and using the entire staff’s knowledge and experience to improve the way we operate. This includes modifying equipment to meet our winter needs and making check-point maps of priority and secondary entrances, sidewalks, roadways, parking lots and parking decks.

Our hospital’s campus has three parking decks. The hospital’s main concern with the parking decks is their longevity. This means maintenance is continual on a daily basis all year. It also means we use no salt. (Our builder’s warranty specifically prohibits its use.) In place of salt, we use two different chemicals: calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) and potassium acetate (CF7).

Non-salt choices for deicing

CMA serves as a bonding agent and prevents the hard snow packing on parking-deck roofs. It is a granular chemical that we can apply before, during or after a snowfall. We apply it with a Vicon fertilizer spreader attached to a four-wheel Cushman utility vehicle. We calibrate the spreader according to the weather situation. We purchase the CMA in bulk totes and store it on campus. An elevated hopper dispenses the chemical into the spreader.

CF7—the second chemical we use—is a liquid deicer. We also can apply it before or after a snowfall, once we’ve cleared away the snow. In addition, we can use it in combination with CMA during a snowfall, applying the liquid first and the CMA directly afterward. This technique ensures that the CMA stays in place.

In many circumstances, we have monitored approaching snow and—when radar is 75 percent certain our location will receive snowfall—we pre-apply. Our best results occur when we pre-apply the liquid deicer.

Parking decks, like bridges, are raised surfaces. Therefore, they are the first to become icy or accumulate snow. Our pre-icing procedure has saved many phone calls to employees who would have had to come in during off-hours to deice the parking decks.

We apply the liquid CF7 using a 165-gallon spray tank fitted to our utility vehicle. The cart features a three-part electronic boom on the back. We can lower the left- and right-side booms using a switch inside the cab. This is an especially nice feature due to car traffic in the parking decks. The cart’s cab also includes a calibration unit, which monitors ground speed and the spray system’s pressure.

We store the liquid on campus in two large storage tanks. The chemical is biodegradable, thus environmental impact is minimized.

Plowing parking decks

For plowing and removing snow from the parking decks, we use a Chevy 2500 4 x 4 pickup truck with a Western plow, a Melroe Bobcat skidsteer with an 8-foot Pro-Tech Sno-Pusher and a snow bucket for dumping the snow over the side of the deck walls. (Each equipment item must meet parking-lot height requirements.) We’ve designated areas to store the snow piles if time doesn’t allow for their removal. Because of traffic flow, we perform snow-dumping removal at night or in the early morning.

Sidewalk and entrance snow removal and deicing has always been a major concern because of the number of building entrances. Many of the specialized departments of the hospital are located in different areas on campus and require prompt attention during a snowfall or icy conditions.

Who or what is the priority?

Customer and employee safety are our first priority. And any department that is open 24 hours or engaged in a shift change is a special priority. Therefore, when a snow or ice storm occurs during regular business hours, we split our department into two groups to maintain the walks and entrances. This establishes a quick-response time to each building. We also assign snow brooms to different locations. Behind the snow brooms, we send out our sidewalk salt spreader. This is the same unit—with a few modifications—that we use to apply CMA to the parking decks. The modifications include a unistrut attached to the spreader’s frame to allow the installation of rubber flaps. The flaps prevent salt from spreading past sidewalk edges onto lawn areas. When we put the rubber flaps into place and begin salting, the agitator on the unit’s rear moves back and forth, dispensing the desired amount of salt.

While this unit follows behind one or two snow brooms, the hand crew is out shoveling or snow-blowing doorways, entrances, ramps or other areas the brooms can’t maintain. (Staff consists of 2 part-time crew members and 16 full-time employees.) At every main entrance or outbuilding, we also place a salt barrel to accommodate the snow shovelers in deicing the walkways. In place of bulk salt, we use potassium chloride (Koos Safe Step ice melter) around the immediate entrances or brick-paved areas. This technique helps prevent tracking and staining of floors and carpeting from people entering the hospital or other buildings. This chemical also breaks down sooner than salt and inflicts less damage—if any—to the entrance walkways and pavers.

Mark R. Groves is landscape supervisor at Beaumont Services Corp., a division of William Beaumont Hospital (Royal Oak, Mich.).

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