They can be purchased for about a hundred bucks (salt not included), but what might be the downside to the seemingly ubiquitous salt bins?
Available in a broad array of colours, salt bins are most often found at entry/exit points. They are sold as being durable outdoor storage bins which ‘conveniently’ stores loose or bagged sand/salt to help keep slippery walkways safe. Buyers are encouraged to use them “at your business, home, cottage, farm, campground, municipality, school, and any public space where safety is a concern”, really everywhere since during winter who doesn’t have a safety concern?
The use of salt bins should be concerning for a variety of reasons. Firstly, as perhaps so many can attest the use of salt bins promotes an over application of salt in winter maintenance. This is a problem in and of itself, certainly when the environment is considered, but given their use at or near entry points, the corrosiveness of salt on facilities is negatively enhanced. Moreover, the over-application itself presents a safety hazard, ironic given the ambition of the product. Time and again studies support that there is a ‘sweet spot’ of salt application: Too little and deicing isn’t sufficient; too much and a slip hazard is created. Applying granulated salt beyond the ‘Goldilocks’ point can create a situation that is akin to marbles on pavement. The challenges surrounding the use of salt bins is magnified by those that are often encouraged to spread product from bins. Often these aren’t knowledgeable and experienced winter maintenance professionals who should fully understand the science behind salt and the limits of the product (typical winter salt – Sodium chloride (NaCl) – isn’t effective below -10 Celsius/14 Fahrenheit) and often these are laypersons, such as property managers, custodial team members, desk clerks, and store associates. These folks are likely not trained and not expected to appreciate the liability that is associated with winter maintenance. It doesn’t take much for a smart legal team to draw a straight line between the deployment and upkeep of a salt bin, the non-professionals that are encouraged to draw and use product, and a slip and fall claim.
In striving to do things different (#SaltingShift) the use of salt bins and any associated risks and liabilities should be well thought through. If all those that are encouraged to use salt from salt bins aren’t fully trained and keeping thorough records, perhaps consider replacing salt with sand. Better still, the use of liquids, i.e. salt brines, has been demonstrated to offer improved safety while reducing negative impacts. Instead of the salt bin, consider brine application equipment. Recently, studies have confirmed that the use of liquids is a cost-effective way to improve safety while reducing the negative impacts on infrastructure and the environment.