Holiday Hazards: Cold, Snow, and Ice
Tips to keep you safe and sound during the holidays.
We've already covered the holiday hazards you might encounter indoors. There are risks that come with leaving the fireplace roaring, stringing up lights, and even keeping a Christmas tree in your living room.
In this article, we'll be stepping out the door and cover the rest of the major holiday hazards - the ones found outdoors.
Cold Weather Safety
Let's start with one of the most obvious holiday hazards. Depending on where you are in the world, it's likely to be cold outside - and cold enough to cause problems like frostbite and hypothermia.
The best way to beat the cold when temperatures dip below freezing is simply to dress appropriately. That means wearing:
- Several layers of loose-fitting clothes (the outermost layer should 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.
Shoveling snow can be hard work. It can also be a hazardous task. Overdoing the shoveling or doing it wrong can result musculoskeletal disorders, fatigue, or a heart attack.
Here are some are steps you can take to ensure your safety when shoveling snow:
- Shoveling is strenuous work - if your body isn't able to take it, get someone else to shovel for you
- Start by loosening up your muscles with light stretching exercises
- Use an ergonomically designed shovel (lightweight, with a long handle to discourage stooping)
- Push the snow instead of lifting 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
- Take short, frequent breaks - as many as you need
- Keep hydrated with warm non-alcoholic drinks
(Learn more in Hydration in the Workplace Is Not Just a Summer Issue)
Rooftop Snow Removal
Shoveling comes with some of its own hazards, but clearing snow from your roof will magnify those risks. Slipping or losing your footing can lead to a fall, and falling off your roof will almost certainly result in a very serious and potentially disabling injury.
Before climbing onto your roof, stop and ask yourself the following:
- Can you remove the snow without climbing onto the roof? An extendable rake will allow you to pull snow off the roof while your feet remain planted firmly on the ground.
- Are there any hazards on the roof that may have become hidden by the snow, like skylights or vents?
- Does your clothing allow for easy movement? Will your boots help you keep your footing? Is your ladder sturdy and tall enough to allow you to reach the roof and climb back down safely?
- Is the area below clear of other people who might get hit by the snow or ice falling from the roof?
(Learn about the Keys to Safe Ladder Use)
Driving on Icy Roads
Icy roads, frosty windshields, and reduced visibility from drifting snow all make driving far riskier. Getting safely from Point A to Point B in the winter requires more skill, focus, patience, and control than it does during the warmer season.
Taking the bus or riding the subway to your destination is by far the safest option when road conditions are hazardous. If that is not a feasible option, however, here are some winter driving safety tips to follow:
- Always wear your seatbelt
- Leave early so you can take your time and drive slowly - below the speed limit, if needed
- Steer with smooth and precise movements, avoiding jerking motions
- Reduce your speed well in advance when approaching an intersection
- Keep twice as much space between you and the vehicles ahead of you than you would on dry roads
- Use your low-beam headlights and tail lights to make your vehicle more visible
- Don't panic if you lose control of your vehicle; instead, focus on where you want your vehicle to go and steer in that direction
- Keep a winter driving emergency kit in your vehicle in case you get stranded or stuck in snow
'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, drive safely, and avoid injury while shoveling.
Enjoy holidays and have a Happy New Year!
For more seasonal content, checkout our Winter Safety Knowledge Center!