Winter can be a beautiful season. Pristine snow gives us opportunities for a myriad of fun recreational activities. However, winter also can bring slips, trips, falls and car spinouts.
Keeping your feet—or your tires—under you can be a tricky proposition in icy or wet conditions. A little diligence and planning will go a long way to ensure that winter does not trip you up, at work or on the road.
Preventing Slips and Falls
To prevent workplace slips and falls on sidewalks and driveways, employers should take extra care to clear all walking surfaces of snow and ice and spread deicer as quickly as possible after a snow or ice storm.
For employees, proper footwear is essential when trying to navigate snow or ice covered walkways. Wear water resistant boots or overshoes with good treads in these conditions.
Making a trip across a sidewalk should not end with you taking a trip or fall. Try these tips to prevent falls on icy walkways:
- Take shorter steps than you usually take, walk as flat-footed as possible in icy areas and walk slower to react quickly to a change in traction.
- A sidewalk treated with deicer can still be slippery. Watch each step you take to avoid stepping on any untreated areas.
- Use special care when getting in and out of vehicles. Use the vehicle for support if you need to do so.
- Try to avoid carrying items, or walking with your hands in your pockets as this can reduce your ability to catch yourself if you lose your balance. Instead, carry a backpack if you have one.
- Avoid using cell phones while walking in icy conditions.
- Look out for black ice, a thin layer of clear ice over a surface that is difficult to see.
- Avoid uneven surfaces if possible. Avoid steps or curbs with ice on them.
- Report any untreated surfaces to your company’s maintenance or facilities department.
Shoveling show can be physically taxing and can lead to exhaustion, dehydration, back injuries and even heart attacks. The following precautions will help you lessen the risk of injury:
- Warm up before shoveling
- Push snow instead of lifting whenever possible
- Shovel small amounts of snow at a time
- When lifting snow, keep your back straight and lift with your legs
If you are using a snow blower to remove snow, never attempt to clear a jammed machine by hand or use a tool to clear a jam while the snow blower is running. If a jam occurs, turn the snow blower off and wait for the moving parts to stop. Use a long stick to clear snow, ice or any debris from the machine. Never add fuel to a snow blower while it is running or hot; complete fueling the machine before operation.
Driving in winter requires preparation. Even if the weather is fine when you leave, conditions can and often do change rapidly, even by the time you reach your destination. Properly maintain your vehicle before driving in winter conditions. Visit a mechanic for a tuneup and other routine maintenance. Either you or your mechanic should:
- Check thoroughly for leaks, worn hoses or other needed parts
- Check the battery for sufficient voltage
- Inspect the charging system and belts and tighten the battery cable connections
- Check the coolant level and verify the coolant is designed to withstand the winter temperatures in your area
- Fill the vehicle’s windshield washer reservoir
- Make sure the windshield wipers work and replace worn blades
- Check to see that the window defrosters (front and rear) work properly
- Inspect the tires at least once a month to ensure they are properly inflated (as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer), the tread is sufficient with no uneven wear, and the rubber is in good overall condition
When you travel in winter, check the weather, road conditions and traffic before you head out the door. Allow yourself plenty of time to reach your destination and do not rush. Let others know your route and scheduled arrival time and familiarize yourself with the directions before you go. If you use a GPS system, look for any advanced notice of accidents or traffic delays before you leave. Always keep your gas tank close to full, even with an electric vehicle. If road conditions are hazardous, avoid driving if possible.
No one wants to break down in any season, but especially not in cold or snowy winter weather. Carry an emergency kit in your vehicle with the following items in case a breakdown occurs and you become stranded:
- Cellphone or two-way radio
- Windshield ice scraper
- Snow brush
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Tow chain
- Traction aids (bag of sand or cat litter)
- Emergency flares
- Jumper cables
- Blankets, change of clothes
If your vehicle stalls in wintry weather, stay with your car, set out the emergency flares and keep your interior dome light on. Make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of any snow and run your vehicle just long enough to stay warm. Keep everyone in your vehicle buckled up and never leave a child unattended in or around the vehicle.
Nobody expects an emergency to happen to them, but prepare yourself in case one arises to stay safe this winter.
For more information on the Christian Brothers Services Risk Pooling Trust, reducing risk or any of our other services, please visit cbservices.org.