Weathering the storm: Snow removal no problem for USask Facilities

Keeping a close eye on weather apps and forecasts has become a borderline obsession for USask’s Grounds Manager, Gift Marufu throughout the winter months.

As the person responsible for the year-round maintenance of the university campus, Marufu knows winter weather conditions can change without a moment’s notice. With nearly 80 kms of combined road and walkways on campus, the call out to members of the snow removal team can begin as early as 1 am depending on the amount of snow that has fallen.

“Our team is continually monitoring the weather situation to be sure we are prepared to quickly respond when the snow begins to accumulate,” Marufu said. “Each member of our team is assigned a region of campus and during major snow events we have two companies that we also contract to plow the primary roadways and clear entry points to buildings.”

Regardless of the conditions, safety is always the number one priority for Marufu and his team. As he points out, balancing the desire to quickly complete the job while safely navigating foot traffic along walkways is a challenge, especially in early mornings when darkness and blowing snow reduces visibility.

“We have team members operating large equipment in close proximity to people, so we must always be aware of our surroundings and make sure we provide the right of way to all foot traffic,” said Marufu.

He categorizes the team’s snow removal efforts as brooms, blades or buckets. Depending on the amount of snow that has fallen and the temperature outside, one or all methods can be utilized. Rapid temperature changes, snow, wind and ice all can influence the way they approach snow removal.

“We have team members trained to operate heavy machinery like loaders and skid steers, sanders and even riding lawnmowers that have been converted from their summer use with blades for pushing snow along walkways,” he said. “We experience many different scenarios and are always adapting to get the best results.”

Regardless of the challenge, Marufu’s greatest sense of pride is his team’s dedication to making the campus accessible for everyone.

“Members of the team never hesitate to help out and go above and beyond,” he said. “Whether that means grabbing a bucket of sand to treat an icy patch or responding to a call out, the entire team is committed to the safety of our campus.”

Marufu and his team are continually looking at more efficient ways to improve the snow removal process.

“We’ve explored GPS options to better track the locations that have been cleared and identify problem areas,” said Marufu, but added it always comes back to a tested and reliable source. “We keep a map of all the walkways and roads and frequently add new information about high-priority areas and locations for improvement.”

The campus community is encouraged to play an active part in improving the services on campus. Marufu wants everyone to report hazards or areas of concern immediately to the Services team by calling 306-966-4496.

“We have an internal goal to respond within 10 minutes to areas that are reported,” said Marufu. “We want to make sure areas that can present a hazard are dealt with quickly so there is not multiple reports or incidents occurring from a single location.”

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