March 8, 2021
Lee GouldSalt bins have become ubiquitous at building entrances. They are relatively inexpensive, and offer convenience to property owners and winter maintenance professionals. But there are downsides as well.

They are sold as being a “…durable outdoor storage bin 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, that covers just about anywhere.

However, the use of salt bins is concerning for a variety of reasons. First, as many can attest, the use of salt bins promotes the 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 amplified. Moreover, the overapplication itself presents a safety hazard, ironic given the ambition of the product. Time and again studies show there is a ‘sweet spot’ for salt application: Too little and deicing isn’t sufficient, but 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 C (14 F). Often these are lay persons such as property managers, custodial team members, desk clerks or 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.

Those wishing to learn more about the unique programs and services offered by the Smart About Salt Council (SASC) are encouraged to visit, where you can register for training priced at $375 (less than the price of a cup of coffee a day) and “Register Intent to Certify” for $226.

Lee Gould
Executive Director, Smart About Salt Council