WINTER WALKING

Author
David Burkhardt

This winter has been one of the worst for much of the U.S., with near-record snow, ice, and many other weather hazards. Walking in winter weather can be particularly dangerous.
Snow is bad enough, but ice and icy conditions can present a far greater hazard to your health. Snow is easy to see, remove, and does provide some traction. Ice, on the other hand, can be hard to see and dangerous, especially if you’re on foot.
The last thing you want to do is fight the weather, get to work, park your car, and then injure yourself when you get there. Slipping and falling on parking lot and sidewalk ice injuries in are common, and can cause serious injuries. Broken arms, wrists, and hips are far too common in snowy and icy conditions.

Here are some general tips to help companies and employees stay safe when conditions are icy:

  • Employers should clear snow and ice from walking surfaces and spread deicer as quickly as possible after a storm.
  • Employees should wear footwear that has good traction and insulation. Avoid wearing boots or shoes with smooth leather or plastic soles and heels. You should always wear shoes or boots made of non-slip rubber or neoprene with grooved soles when walking on snow and ice.
  • Wear a heavy, bulky coat that will cushion you if you should fall.
  • Wear a bright colored or reflective clothing so drivers can see you.
  • Keep warm, but make sure you can hear what’s going on around you.
  • During the day, wear sunglasses to help you see better and avoid hazards.

Walk like a penguin

In cold temperatures, assume that all wet, dark areas on pavement and sidewalks are slippery and icy. A thin layer of moisture can freeze on cold surfaces, forming a nearly invisible layer of black ice that can look like a wet spot on the pavement.

Walk in designated walkways whenever possible. Taking shortcuts over snow piles and other frozen areas can be dangerous. Avoid walking in the street if at all possible, icy streets are slippery for cars too, and they’re much more difficult to stop.

  • When walking on ice, angle your feet out, like a penguin, this will increase your center of gravity.
  • Lean slightly forward and walk flat-footed to keep your center of gravity directly over your feet.
  • Taking short steps will help you keep your balance
  • Extend your arms out to your sides to maintain balance. If you must carry a load, try not to carry too much; leave your hands and arms free to balance yourself.
  • If you do carry something, carry it in your dominant hand. This can help prevent you from using your dominant hand break your fall, and avoid injuring your hand, wrist, or arm.
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets. Putting your hands in your pockets while walking may keep them warm, but it decreases your center of gravity, balance, and increases your chances of slipping and falling.
  • Watch where you’re walking, focus on the path in front of you, and take your time
  • When walking on stairs always use the hand-railings and plant your feet firmly on each step.
  • It’s easy to lose your balance when getting into or out of your car, use the vehicle to help support yourself.
  • Look at the ground while you’re walking, don’t end up slipping on ice that we could have seen if we had been looking.

Walking on a slippery floor can be just as dangerous as walking on ice. Keep these tips in mind when entering a building:

  • Melting ice or water on the floor can make it slippery.
  • Watch for floors and stairs that may be wet and slippery, walk carefully by outer doors.
  • Determine the best path to take to get to your destination and take a little extra time to get there
  • Be sure to use floor mats when entering a building to remove moisture from the soles of your shoes – this will help protect you, and others, from having to walk on wet or slippery surfaces

Winter weather can be irritating enough without adding injury to the equation.

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