Market report - Winter clearance

A wider choice of kit makes light work of tasks that previously had to be done by hand, says Sally Drury.

Bobcat: extended snow-blower range now capable of throwing snow up to 15m and models feature a rotating chute and deflector - image: Bobcat Europe
Bobcat: extended snow-blower range now capable of throwing snow up to 15m and models feature a rotating chute and deflector - image: Bobcat Europe
Predicting the winter weather is not easy. There are many factors to take into account, such as the quasi biennial and El Niño southern oscillations — not to mention Arctic oscillation, Pacific and North Atlantic sea surface temperatures and sun spot activity. And you must have noticed the abundance of berries in hedgerows this autumn.

Having sorted the science from the folklore and added in data from historical records, some leading forecasters are already predicting that this winter will be colder than average. That certainly means ice and it probably also means snow.

Preparation is paramount

When it comes to clearing ice and snow, it is all about being prepared. Salt and grit should be ordered as early as possible and investment made in suitable equipment. Before winter, premises should be surveyed to identify areas that need to remain accessible during adverse weather. All equipment should be checked and made winter-ready and staff training updated.

De-icing materials and shovels should be on hand to ensure access to machinery.
Traditionally, shovels along with salt or grit would have been used to clear snow manually.

Today there is a wide choice of pedestrian and ride-on snow and ice clearing machinery, with a number of new models this year. Tracmaster sales and marketing director Alex Pitt advises: "It is best to clear snow soon after it has fallen because fresh snow is easier to remove. Ideally, snow needs to be cleared before it turns to ice."

Tracmaster, based in West Sussex, offers snow-clearing blades, blowers and brushes, but news this year is of an extension to the range of BCS units compatible with such kit, including the BCS 720 and BCS 740. When there is no snow to clear, the machines can be matched to any of 25 attachments for other tasks, from grass cutting and woodchipping to cultivation and sweeping.

The BCS 720 can clear up to 2,500sq m per hour, while the top of the range BCS 740 is the company's most powerful snow-clearing machine, able to clear 4,000sq m per hour. The established 600 series includes the compact entry-level BCS 615L, clearing up to 2,500sq m per hour, and the popular BCS 630 will shift snow from up to 4,000sq m in an hour.

Snow blade attachments

Two new snow blades available in 1.5m and 1.9m widths are the latest additions to the Wessex Country compact tractor attachment range. Developed to meet the needs of contractors, smallholders and private estate owners, the 40mm-thick poly blade is attached to the tractor's weight frame with a universal linkage and housed in a sturdy steel frame with optional spring-loaded break-back protection.

The blades are intended to be a quick-mounting solution for keeping drives and access areas clear. Lifting and lowering of the blades is via a single hydraulic ram. The angle can be set manually or with an optional hydraulic angling kit.

Equipment options

Bobcat owners can make use of many attachments to tackle wintery events. Already one of the widest ranges of products for winter work on the market, the system combines attachments such as snow blowers, buckets, blades and salt and sand spreaders with Bobcat skid-steer, compact tracked and all-wheel-steer loaders. There is something available to clear snow and ice wherever needed — urban and country roads, pavements, car parks, superstores, driveways, parks, schools, campuses and sports complexes.

This year, Bobcat has extended its offering of snow-blower models from eight to 18, ensuring contractors can match exactly the capacity of the loader and its hydraulic performance. The hydraulically driven snow-blowers are said to be ideal for clearing pavements, driveways, parking areas and local roads. They can throw snow up to 15m and have a rotating chute and deflector.

Snow-clearing machinery effectively clears a path free from snow. Pitt suggests the cleared area then be salted. "Salting the path after snow is cleared will ensure that any moisture left on the terrain does not turn to ice," he says. "It also means the salt is used efficiently and there can be a saving on costs."

In preparation for the winter months ahead, Tracmaster has introduced the PLS 180 salt spreader. "With 14,631 recorded incidents of accidents on untreated paths in Britain during the winter of 2011-12, keeping areas that need to be ­accessible clear is of the utmost importance to public authorities and contractors, and this new addition reinforces our commitment to public safety," says Pitt.

The PLS 180 — designed as an attachment for BCS two-wheel tractors, BCS Crusader Power Scythes and the BCS Commander — can handle salt, sand, granulated fertiliser or similar dry material. Providing accurate salting up to 6-7m, the width of the spread can be easily controlled by the ­stainless-steel deflector, ensuing only the areas that need salt are treated. A large 100kg-capacity plastic hopper provides improved salt flow and reduces the number of trips to the salt bins.

Treating pavements

The latest SnowEx drop spreader, new from Broadwood International, is for treating pavements and other restricted areas. There are two capacities, both with a flow-control system to offer gate-free controlled material dispersal.

As the use of brine solutions becomes increasingly popular, Broadwood has added the SnowEx VSS 1000 brine spray system to its winter catalogue. The company also supplies the V-Pro and V-Maxx high-capacity machines for larger pick-ups and flatbed trucks. There are four models from the 1,200-litre unit to the flagship 3,200-litre spreader.

Designed to perform in the USA and Canada, and featuring a patented wet/dry mixing chamber plus handheld digital pendant-style controller, the SnowEx SuperMaxx truck-mounted spreader is also available in the UK from Broadwood. To record spreading details of date, time and start/stop information, plus measure material used, the SnowEx brand includes the Salt-Traxx recorder.

In its estate range of equipment, Broadwood supplies the Wessex Country FS170T and FS207T trailed spreaders for hitching behind an ATV, UTV, 4x4, forklift, or any vehicle with a ball or clevis hitch. Suited to keeping paths and drives clear of ice and snow, the spreaders feature an agitator in the hopper to improve material flow, stainless-steel spinning disc with adjustable fins and an optional winter kit that includes a spread limiter and a hopper grid.

Snow and ice can be cleared only to come back again soon afterwards. With unpredictable weather conditions, there may still be a danger of accidents even when everything has been done to reduce risks. Whatever equipment you choose to use this winter, remember to document the work to demonstrate the action taken to fulfil duty-of-care obligations. If a personal injury case is brought, a detailed record of actions taken to reduce risks will be needed by insurers and lawyers.

Training ensures optimum benefit from specialist kit

Set in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, Glenfiddich is a place of breathtaking beauty in both summer and winter. It is also home to a world-famous distillery that produces more than one-million cases of whisky a year, employs 180 staff and operates 24 hours a day. In addition, it is a hugely popular visitor attraction, so keeping access open to the site is vital.

Glenfiddich Distillery estates team manager Dave Steward purchased a Tracmaster BCS 630 power unit plus snow blower, snow brusher and snow plough in 2010 and has found them invaluable. "With so many visitors and staff arriving every day, it is essential we stay open. The Tracmaster equipment has made this possible," he says.

In preparation for this winter, the estate invited Tracmaster to give the team training sessions to enable them to better cope with whatever the weather brings.

"It is very sensible to ensure that all the staff operating the machinery are fully trained and prepared in good time for the coming winter and we are happy to work with Glenfiddich to ensure that this is the case," says Tracmaster training coordinator John Bates.

"The distillery is now well equipped to cope with whatever the weather has to throw at them and keep all their outside areas clear for staff and visitors."

CourseWear Suit: protection from the elements

Deciding what to wear in winter is a concern for all outdoor workers. You do not want so many clothes on that you cannot bend, but you do not want to be cold. With many workers now looking to upgrade workwear, Highspeed Group is promoting what it describes as its best workwear yet — the CourseWear Suit.

Managing director David Mears says: "The CourseWear Suit is exclusive to us and is specially produced to our specification. We recently upgraded to this new model, incorporating a number of new features, some of which are as a result of customer feedback. We can confidently say that it is our best yet."

The suit is designed to keep wearers warm and dry, yet it is lightweight and practical. Keeping wind and rain out was a priority for Highspeed. Restyled, the jacket now has a Hi-Tec lining, deep shoulder storm flap, heavy-duty zipped pockets and an adjustable hood in the zipped collar. A heavy-duty front zip and storm flap, together with deeper, all-round elasticated waistband and elasticated cuffs, offer further protection from the elements.

The trousers also feature a two-layer Hi-Tec lining, fully taped and sealed. There are also heavy-duty side zipped and press-stud flap back pockets, plus a higher, deeper and adjustable waist.

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