Snow Warden


An old fire station door with a bell mounted in a brick arch above it

The Parish Snow Warden

The Snow Warden for Elsham is Larraine Guest – Tel: 01652 680679

NLC Parish Snow Warden Scheme – Notes & FAQs

What is the Snow Warden Scheme?

In response to the Winter Service consultation process over the summer of 2011,there was overwhelming support for the idea of “Snow Wardens” to be established within those Parishes that wished to participate.

Furthermore North Lincolnshire has agreed to supply each Parish with 3 salt bins and a 2 tonne supply of bulk salt.

The bins and salt are meant to enable each parish to respond to the local needs of their communities and the Parish Snow Wardens are encouraged to develop local priorities for snow and ice clearance and to include those within their community.

Emergency Plans

The Parish Snow Wardens will provide a point of contact within the communities, which will enable direct liaison with their appointed Lead Snow Warden during the winter period. A North Lincolnshire Councillor has been identified as a “Lead Snow Warden” for each Parish, and they will be supported by local volunteer Parish Snow Wardens. The Lead Snow Warden will have direct contact with the Winter Service Control Room.

Can the parish and town councils use the provided salt anywhere?

In general terms the salt is for use on public areas only. It is not intended to be provided for the general public to clear their own driveways, paths etc. It is up to the Parish Councils to define their own priorities for clearance and any salt spreading within their communities. The emphasis is on encouraging the clearance of snow from footpaths and then spreading a very thin layer of salt once the area is clear of snow.

Sounds ok in theory, but what does that mean in a bit more detail?

North Lincolnshire Council is encouraging each parish / town council that wishes to participate, to look around their parish and identify areas that the local community will need to access during periods of heavy snow which would not be treated by North Lincolnshire Council Highways. The kind of locations which may be considered important by the local community are footpaths outside doctors surgeries, the footpaths outside local shops and services, access routes to the main bus stops etc. It will be for the parish council to decide whether sites will constitute ‘priority sites’.

The Parish Council and Parish Snow Wardens may wish to make contact with local residents or shop keepers and ask them to help out with the scheme and volunteer to clear snow and spread salt. Any volunteers should be advised what will be required of them in the event of snowfall. Volunteers should be confident they can clear the snow from the priority area, that they have access to suitable equipment and are confident they are physically able to undertake the activity. The Parish Council should keep a record of all the priority sites identified and who is volunteering at each site. If heavy snowfall comes it will be for the volunteer to decide if they feel able to undertake the activity safely and if so to attempt to clear the snow under the direction of the Parish Snow Warden.

What is suitable equipment for clearing snow and spreading salt?

The most important thing is to look after yourself. If at any point you don’t feel confident to complete the task then you should not participate. Clearing snow is hard physical work so if you volunteer make sure you can do it, ensure that you take plenty of breaks and know when to stop. Suitable clothing goes without saying, boots or wellington boots and plenty of warm and waterproof clothing. 25% of your body heat is lost through your head and hands so wear gloves and a hat. If you are working near the road it is advisable to be as visible as possible and wear reflective vest/jacket. When working, the body will build up a sweat so be prepared to shed layers as you work.

I am a Parish Snow Warden, how will I know if it is going to snow?

Keep an eye on the local weather forecasts. The Met Office produce regular weather updates. The Winter Service Control Room at North Lincolnshire Council Highways, receives more detailed weather information, and monitors a number of weather stations around the area 24 hours a day. If a severe weather event is a high probability we would endeavour to pass information out as early as possible to the Lead Snow Wardens, for information to be cascaded to Parish Snow Wardens.

If I volunteer to clear snow, is there a risk of being sued if someone then has an accident?

Over recent years there has been a growing urban myth that if you clear snow from an area, if someone then has an accident you would be held liable. Central Government has issued guidance confirming it is unlikely you’ll be sued or held legally responsible for any injuries on the path if you have cleared it carefully. This is contained within the “Snow Code” issued by the Department for Transport and included within the Winter Service Policy issued by North Lincolnshire Council. The information overleaf provides further practical guidance on snow clearance.

A simple “How To” guide for snow clearing for Parish Snow Wardens

During the winter months North Lincolnshire Council Highways are often contacted by members of the public requesting that we come out to salt their local road as it is iced over. In response we decline the request stating that their road, if it is not already on an identified precautionary or secondary salting route, does not comply with policy, and therefore we would not be gritting their road. We further advise that even if we had the resource spare, quite often salt alone will not remove ice without sufficient trafficking etc.

The Parish salt bin scheme and the supply of salt bags to the Parishes is our attempt to try to support these areas which fall outside our winter service policy and for which North Lincolnshire Council Highways does not have the capacity or resource to deliver a direct service to. Along with supplying salt we felt that supporting information may be useful to hopefully answer some of the questions around snow clearance and explain how salt works, highlighting to the Snow Wardens things to consider so they can participate efficiently and safely.

The following information is provided to act as a simple guide on how to clear snow – and spread salt. It should clear up any common misconceptions around the snow
and ice clearing process. It is provided to offer a basic understanding of the process and to highlight some of the things to consider if you undertake snow clearance and salt spreading.

It expands upon advice provided by the Department for Transport within their “Snow Code” document, which is included within North Lincolnshire Council’s Winter Service Policy 2011.

Basic Principles

Removing or dealing with snow is basic common sense. Before going into details there are a few principles that need to be understood that will make the job easier. The only effective way of removing snow is by mechanical means or put simply – hard graft and elbow grease!

Undisturbed snow is the easiest to remove as once walked on it becomes compact and turns to ice, making it more difficult to work with. Pre-salting an area prior to snow is useful in preventing the compacted snow from bonding to the pavement surface but it will not remove snow on its own. Once the area has been cleared of snow a very thin layer of salt should be spread to prevent any melt water from refreezing on the pavement creating a risk of black ice.

Clearing snow can be hard physical work so make sure participants are up to it. Ensure they take plenty of breaks and know when to stop. Suitable clothing goes without saying, boots or wellington boots and plenty of warm and water proof clothing. 25% of your body heat is lost through your head and hands so wear gloves and a hat. When working, the body will build up a sweat so be prepared to shed layers as you work.

The most popular de-icing material is salt or sodium chloride. Rock salt, which is the product North Lincs Council use on the highway, is a mined salt. The majority of rock salt used in the UK comes from mines located in Cleveland, Winsford (Cheshire) and County Antrim.

How salt works
Water has a freezing point of 0 °C. When salt is dissolved into the water / moisture on the highway it lowers the freezing point. The freezing point will depend on the levels of concentration. Sea water has a low concentration of about 5% and will freeze at -2°C. When temperatures get down to about -6°C, the levels of salt required preventing freezing become impractical. Salt stops being effective below this temperature. With regard to snow and ice, salt is generally ineffective when spread upon compacted snow/ice. For salt to work effectively, moisture is required for it to dissolve into. Without some trafficking or perhaps ambient temperatures increasing to permit a film of moisture to develop on the surface, salt will be ineffective. In general terms, to clear snow and ice it must be manually removed by hand.

Suitable Tools

Plastic light weight snow shovels or wide bladed shovels are the most appropriate tools.
A regular metal shovel is the next best alternative but not as efficient, as the snow will stick to it and need to be cleared regularly.

To spread the salt you could use a domestic grass spreader or lawn feeder (make sure you wash out any salt before using on grass unless you want to kill the grass!).
A small scoop or garden trowel to distribute the salt, if doing it by hand.
A wheelbarrow to move tools, carry salt or move snow.

Looking after yourself

The most important thing is to look after is yourself. If at any point you don’t feel confident to complete the task then you should not participate.

Planning the work

Before the snow comes there are some key tasks that each Snow Warden may wish to consider, which may make your life easier when the snow has arrived.

Firstly, define the areas which you will take on responsibility for and clear the snow from. Walk the route and identify where there is open space, grass verges, and front gardens into which snow can be deposited. Store the equipment and salt in a location that will remain accessible when there is snow.

Consider the risks that you may face when undertaking the task of snow clearance and write all the information on the provided risk assessment form.

Preparing yourself for snow clearing. Before venturing outside make sure you are properly kitted out with warm clothing and suitable footwear.

Make sure you are close to a suitable refuge (building or vehicle) so you can take shelter in case the weather turns inclement or people get too cold. You can also use the refuge to take plenty of rests as the work is very physical.

If you are working near the road it is advisable to be as visible as possible and wear reflective vest/jacket.

If you are working alone ensure you have informed someone of where you are and how long you intend to be, have a charged mobile phone with you and remain in contact every 1-2hrs and inform friends/family of any changes to location or estimated return time.
Those not used to physical work will tire quickly so be very conservative with what you think you can achieve. As a guide, an experienced labourer could only be expected to clear and treat by hand 50m of footway per hour.

Clearing the snow

Go out as early as possible so you can move the snow before it becomes compacted by people walking over it. Ideally, when clearing a path you should aim to clear sufficient width to allow two pedestrians to pass and follow the most likely route taken by users. The cleared space should be widened at bus stops and areas where pedestrians congregate. The cleared snow should be deposited in verges, front gardens or areas that are non-trafficked i.e. to the side of the pavement. It should not be deposited in the carriageway or drainage gullies as this will prevent melt water draining away, risking it refreezing and turning to black ice. Care should be taken to avoid blocking access to properties, driveways and paths.

Spreading the Salt

Clearing the snow allows the sun to warm up the pavement surface temperature which aids the process of melting and evaporating any remaining snow and ice. Where salt is available it can be spread on to the cleared pavement. This will help prevent the melt water refreezing and turning to black ice. The amount of salt required to treat an area is much less than you think. As a guide 15 -20g/m² (about a very small hand full) should be sufficient to clear and protect a 1m (3ft) length of cleared surface. Provided the surface is cleared and uniformly treated it is possible to treat 400m of footway with a 20kg bag.

A method for spreading salt if being done by hand is to have the salt on a small trowel and gently shake it off as you walk along. A large shovel will be heavy to hold and one blade will contain sufficient salt to cover 80m. Spreading salt from a shovel is very inefficient and wasteful. One method that could be considered is the use of small plastic domestic garden fertiliser/seed spreaders. This gave an even coverage, was less labour intensive and quicker.

Remember, salt does not remove snow or compact ice and spreading salt in thick layers will only be wasteful, harmful to the environment and create a mess which
will lead to complaints from local residents and shop keepers who have the salt walked into their properties.

Compacted Ice

If you are too late and the snow has compacted and bonded to the pavement surface, do not despair. It is only possible to remove it via mechanical means – that good old elbow grease again! However, this will be hard work and not very productive. The salt that we have provided will give a very small amount of traction by sitting on top of the ice but it will dissolve over time. It may be better to utilise a cheaper and more effective product such as coarse graded or sharp sand (not Builders Sand) and spread this uniformly over the ice to provide traction (alternatives include grit, cinders or cat litter). As people walk over the ice and sand the pressure will embed the sand providing a long-term solution. If you do use sand or grit the only drawback is that the pavement will need sweeping once the thaw has taken place!