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How to Avoid Slips and Falls on the Ice

Rose Legal

Each year, there are more than 20,000 work injuries in the U.S. related to ice, snow, and sleet. When getting to and from work—and while you’re on the job, if you work outside—keep these tips in mind to avoid falls on ice during the cold winter months.

Choosing a Path

When it’s wintertime, be sure to plan ahead. Check the weather forecast and give yourself plenty of time to get to work when you know there will be snow and ice to deal with. Choose well-lit walkways that have been shoveled and salted whenever possible, and consider an alternate path when your typical route looks hazardous. It’s important to be fully aware of your surroundings, so avoid distractions such as your cell phone. You’ll want to be alert enough to react in time should you start to slip.

Hidden Danger

Black ice, a transparent film of ice that forms over dark surfaces, can be particularly hazardous. Keep your eyes peeled for these icy patches, which are especially common in shady areas and on bridges. Before stepping down from a car, step, or platform, you can test for black ice by carefully tapping the spot below with your toes.

The Right Shoes

For snowy winters, it’s useful to invest in shoes or boots that offer grip on slippery surfaces. Avoid shoes with smooth soles, loose shoes, and shoes with high heels. Boots with deep tread or ice cleats that attach to your shoes can provide the traction you’ll need. Then when entering a building, don’t forget to use floor mats to remove the moisture from the soles of your shoes. This will help keep not only yourself from slipping, but anyone else who walks in after you as well. If you plan to switch to indoor shoes, be sure to sit down first before removing your winter footwear.

Along with the right shoes, it is wise to dress for the cold weather in general. Should you slip on the ice, gloves and multiple layers of clothing will provide extra padding, which may prevent you from getting a nasty scrape or bruise.

Holding On

Whenever you navigate icy stairs or sloped walkways, be sure to use handrails for support. If you need to steady yourself, hold on to stable structures. You’ll need to keep your hands free in order to do this, so avoid walking on ice with your hands in your pockets, or while carrying large items. And when exiting or entering a vehicle, remember the “three points of contact” rule: keep two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand, in contact with the vehicle. Step straight down, rather than outward.

How to Walk

The common advice for avoiding falls on ice is to “waddle like a penguin.” This means taking short, shuffling steps, walking carefully and deliberately. Try to keep your center of gravity low, balanced over your feet. Walk flat-footed and with a wide stance, never leaning too far forward or backward.

Should You Fall…

If you do lose control and slip, try to land on your seat or back, rather than on your head or arms. After falling, it’s best to wait for someone to help you back up. In the event of an injury, hastily trying to stand up on your own could lead to another fall (which could hurt you even more). If uninjured and by yourself, move slowly when getting back up—first to your hands and knees, and then to your feet. If there’s a handrail or sturdy object nearby, you can use that to pull yourself up.

Reduce your risk of falling on winter’s snow and ice by staying mindful of your surroundings and treading carefully. Remember: slow and steady—it’s not a race.

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