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Holiday Hazards: Cold, Snow and Ice

By Kurina Baksh
Published: December 16, 2015 | Last updated: November 12, 2018 08:49:58
Key Takeaways

Tips to keep you safe and sound during the holidays.

Source: Gajus/

In addition to all the household holiday hazards associated with fire, lights and Christmas trees (Read more about these hazards here: Holiday Hazards: Fire, Lights and Christmas Trees), the cold and snowy weather can also pose risks to your well-being this season. Here are some safety tips to help you and your family stay safe and healthy as you prepare to enjoy the holiday season.

Cold Weather Safety

The best way to beat the freezing temperatures this winter season is to dress appropriately. Being exposed to cold weather conditions without the proper attire can result in frostbite and hypothermia, as well put you at a greater risk for slips and falls. To learn more about frostbite and hypothermia, and how you can protect yourself this season, check out Cold Stress: Your Winter Safety Guide. Be sure to wear the following types of clothing to stay warm and dry:

  • Wear several layers of loose-fitting clothes; the outermost layer of clothing should always be tightly woven to prevent your body from losing heat
  • A water and wind resistant coat or jacket
  • A hat that covers your ears
  • A scarf or balaclava to cover your face and mouth
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Water-resistant boots with a good tread

If you begin to feel too warm, remove a layer of clothing, as excess perspiration can increase body heat loss.


Snow Shoveling

Shoveling snow is not only hard work; it can also be a very hazardous task. Besides being exposed to the cold weather, you may also be at risk for musculoskeletal disorders, fatigue and even a heart attack. Here are some are steps you can take to ensure your safety when shoveling snow:

  • Make sure you are physically fit, as shoveling is a strenuous task
  • Before you begin, loosen up your muscles by doing light stretching exercises
  • Use an ergonomically designed shovel; it should be lightweight with a long enough handle to prevent stooping actions
  • Push the snow rather than lift it; turn your feet to the direction you are pushing the snow to prevent repetitive twisting motions of the waist
  • Shovel at a steady pace to reduce fatigue; additionally, be sure to take short frequent breaks
  • Keep hydrated with warm non-alcoholic drinks

Rooftop Snow Removal

According to the U.S. Department of Labour, every year many home owners are either killed or seriously injured while removing snow from their rooftops. There are many hazards associated with removing snow from rooftops, such as slips and falls, amputations, eye injuries, and other injuries associated with the use of mechanized equipment. Here are some points to consider before climbing onto the roof:

  • Is it possible to remove the snow without going onto the roof?
  • Are there any hazards on the roof that may have become hidden by the snow (e.g. skylights and vents)?
  • What tools, equipment, protective devices, clothing and footwear will I need?
  • How will I protect people on the ground from snow (e.g. snow drifts) and ice (e.g. icicles) that may fall off the roof during removal?

Driving on Icy Roads

Slippery and icy roads can make driving conditions less than desirable during the holiday season. Therefore, winter driving requires skills, focus, patience and control. If you really must drive on icy roads be sure to heed the following safety tips:

  • Always wear your seatbelt (For more on seatbelt safety, check out Seat Belts: The 2 Second Fix That Could Save Your Life)
  • Do not rush to get to your destination. Take your time and drive slowly, even below speed limits
  • Reduce your driving speed well in advance when approaching intersections and bridges
  • Steer with smooth and precise movements. Avoid jerking motions
  • Keep a cushion of space around your vehicle, leaving twice the following distance as you would on dry roads
  • Use your low-beam headlights and tail lights to make your vehicle more visible
  • Keep up-to-date with weather reports as winter weather conditions can be unpredictable; avoid getting stranded
  • Always keep a winter driving emergency kit in your vehicle (For more on what should be included in this kit, check out Winter Driving Safety)
  • If you are losing control of your vehicle, do not panic; immediately focus on where you want your vehicle to go and steer in that direction

'Tis the Season to be Wary

Before you make merry, make sure you know what precautions to take to keep yourself, your family and your friends safe during the holidays. Whether you are going out shopping for the perfect presents or just visiting friends and family, be sure to dress warmly and drive safely. Additionally, if you plan on clearing out that driveway or rooftop, consider all the hazards involved and prepare for them safely. Enjoy holidays and have a Happy New Year!


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Written by Kurina Baksh

Kurina Baksh is a Health, Safety and Environment Professional from Trinidad and Tobago. As a recent graduate in the field, she is trained to analyze and advise on a wide range of issues related to her area of expertise. Currently, she is an independent consultant who develops public outreach and education programmes for an international clientele. She strongly believes that increasing public outreach and education can promote hazard awareness and ultimately save lives.

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