This Web Exclusive is contributed by PLANET, a national association of commercial landscape professionals based in Herndon, VA.
For commercial facility managers, the safety concerns for employees, buildings, and outdoor landscaping begin to pile up as soon as wintry weather begins. Here are a list of tips on keeping people safe and protecting landscape investments during frigid weather conditions.
Providing safe access for employees and guests by way of slip-free walkways is of prime concern. It is important to time surface treatments correctly, with the appropriate chemicals for each type of pavement, especially in freeze thaw cycles. Having a plan for surface treatment is critical for preventing slip-and-fall accidents.
Don’t forget the roof. Rooftops and gutters can bear a lot of weight from heavy snow. Professionals trained on the safe and effective removal of snow from rooftops should be consulted if a facility manager has any cause for concern.
Protect plants with a physical barrier. No matter the amount of shrubs and trees on a property, in frigid weather it’s worth taking some precautions to protect these investments. Facility managers can employ the use of anti-transpirants, which are applied to plants and trees to help reduce water loss from plant leaves (similar to sweating). Burlap wrapping also may be used to shield valuable evergreens from salt spray and winter winds. Tree branches that may be susceptible to snow loads should be tied together; staff should be sure to remove the cover as soon as it begins to warm up again.
Use care when shoveling, plowing, or blowing snow. Staff should install posts with reflectors next to plants, so they are well marked; then snow won’t be shoveled on top of the plants. Snow piles left on plants will starve them of oxygen.
Create a plan for snow removal. PLANET members recommend facility managers develop a contract with a landscape professional that defines the number of inches of snow that needs to fall before services are delivered. And, most snow contracts require action within 24 hours.
Use chemicals wisely. Snow removal contractors who aren’t landscape professionals may not give much thought to the types of chemicals they are using. Facility managers should ask if the company uses staff that is trained in snow removal. Salt and melting agents for snow and ice can potentially damage plant material along walkways and driveways. Professionals will know how much to use, when to use them, and use strategies, such as protective fencing, to keep the salt from severely damaging evergreen plant material as well as groundcovers.