Russian winter brings cleaning challenges

26th of October 2012
Russian winter brings cleaning challenges

Since the middle ages, foreign travellers have been mesmerised by the Russian winter, explains Oleg Popov from Cristanval Cleaning.

An unusual and "ferociously cold" winter is regarded as the key factor in Napoleon's defeat in the Patriotic War of 1812. Regardless of the past, and surprising to many people around the world, temperatures ranging close to -20°C or even -30°C  are not considered disastrous. In fact, they are normal winter temperatures for Russians. How does a cleaning company manage to work effectively under these conditions?

In the cleaning business, the winter season begins in November and continues to the first week of April, though these time lines have become less definitive, thanks to dramatic climate changes across the globe. Preparations for the winter season begin as early as September. We start off by taking inventory and ordering the necessary seasonal equipment. We also obtain deicing agents and winter uniforms for our staff, and pre-book contractors for snow removal and industrial climbing. The first step is raking, collecting and disposing of the fallen leaves. Then, soon, snow begins to cover all surfaces and someone has to shovel it.

Not only do all negotiations and agreements with customers have to be made in advance, but also the new 'winter approach' to snow and/or waste collection and removal has to be documented and signed. This drastically differs from our summer actions plan. The winter action plan has to be specific as to the mapping of the perimeters of the involved territory signed for maintenance.

Routes for specialty vehicles and cleaning personnel have to be laid out. The directions for these operations and guidelines for employees must be finalised. The locations of temporary snow storage before hauling have to be planned. But even the best plans can’t include all possible situations and, in some cases, it is necessary to alter our procedures in order to ensure safe operations in the city.

If a bulldozer cannot be used on a site, then additional personnel will be necessary to keep the operations running safely.  Since that will increase operational costs, it must be negotiated in advance. In order to effectively combat inclement weather conditions, the street sweepers' schedule will also be reconsidered and altered. Every 90 minutes of work in street conditions must be followed by a 15-minute break in a warm environment. The colder it is on the street, the more frequent and extended the 'rest-n-warm-up' breaks must be.

Actual snowfall is the most challenging aspect of the cleaning operation. Snowfall might continue for several days nonstop, and be accompanied with a strong wind and cold. In some cases that may require over 200 truckloads to remove the snow from a single car park. It is mandatory to modify all dozers in the northern cities with a battery booster pack (which also helps to start the engine) in order to withstand the extreme weather conditions.

Those boosters are not all that necessary in Moscow, but in Siberia, their absence will doom snow and ice removal operations. Also, engine oil  thickens in extreme cold. So we add special chemical additives called 'pour point depressants'.

The harmonious and swift work of a cleaning company during the winter season is a true indicator of the professional approach to cleaning services in Russia. Many customers feel comfortable in expanding the scale of operations involving a particular contractor after the very first winter.


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