Slip, trip, and fall incidents result in some of the most common workplace injuries. And it doesn't take a safety expert to know that the risk of falling outdoors increases in the winter as temperatures drop. Even a little ice and snow can drastically reduce traction and turn an ordinary parking lot or driveway into a serious safety hazard.
Simple Tips for Staying Upright
We all have the same goal when walking across a snowy or icy surface: stay upright! The slip and fall risks are evident and losing our balance even a little is enough to make us catch our breath. But when we're in a hurry or distracted, it's easy to forget all the small things we can do to be a little more careful on slippery surfaces.
With that in mind, here are eight tips to stay safe this winter.
1. Get the Right Footwear
Plan ahead and buy footwear that is seasonally appropriate. It's true that heavy winter boots aren't always the most fashionable items – but then again neither is a cast or a neck brace.
Make sure the sole has good treads and stick to a low heel for the season. You can always carry in your preferred indoor shoes and put them on once you're safely inside.
2. Walk Like a Penguin
Taking long, fast strides across an ice-covered parking lot is one of the best ways to become closely acquainted with the ground. Instead, take short steps and walk at a slower pace, just like a penguin. Not only will it help you keep your balance, it will also allow you to notice quick changes in traction and react appropriately.
3. Use Handrails
For some reason, we're sometimes reluctant to make our lives easier by using the tools around us, even when they're at arm's reach. That's true for handrails. After a summer of bounding up the steps without giving it a second thought, it doesn't always occur to us to grab hold of the rail when the steps are frozen over.
But remember, the handrail is extra precaution. That means you still have to walk up and down the stairs carefully, taking your time and planting your feet firmly on each step.
4. Step Out Safely
Use caution when exiting and entering your vehicle. Stepping out of the vehicle can mean hitting the ground at an awkward angle, and getting to our vehicle can make us put our guard down. So step in and out carefully, and even grab onto the door handle or the vehicle itself for extra support.
5. Watch Out for Black Ice
So you drove to work in the morning and find that the parking lot is free of snow. Before you jump out of the car and waltz carelessly to the building, remember that you might come across the dreaded black ice.
After water snow or ice melts, it can refreeze into black ice, a thin, slippery layer of ice that is difficult to see but easy to fall on.
6. Don't Overload Yourself
Need to carry something to or from your car? Now's not the time to be a hero and load yourself up with as much as you can carry so that you can bring it all in one trip. And we can guarantee that no one will be impressed with your efficiency if you – and everything you're carrying – falls to the ground.
Only take what you can comfortably carry without obstructing your view. Try to keep at least one arm and hand free; you'll be amazed at how much easier it will be to maintain your balance.
7. Don't Create a Hazard Indoors
Slip and fall safety doesn't end once you walk into the door. Make sure you remove as much snow and water from your boots or shoes as possible. If you have dry shoes to change into, do it as soon as you can do so safely (standing in everyone's way is ill-advised). Otherwise, you could leave a wet prints or snowy, slushy patches for others to slip on.
8. If It's Dangerous to Walk On, It's Dangerous to Drive On
The slippery surface you have to walk across is likely to be similar to the surface you have to drive on. Take your time – extra, if you need to – and remember that the speed limit is just that: a limit. Drive below it if you need to.
And remember that the road is slippery for everyone else, too. Give yourself enough distance from other vehicles, in case they have difficulty braking.
Watch Your Step!
Winter means holidays and seasonal treats, but also slippery surfaces. Take extra care throughout the season to make sure that you make it to spring without injury.