ESD 112 Insurance Programs Safety Talks

Walk Safely This Winter

Slips, trips, and falls are a leading cause of school employee injuries. The risk of slipping, tripping, and falling increases dramatically during winter months. To help you stay safe here are winter safety tips to prevent slips, trips, and falls:
  • Plan ahead and give yourself sufficient time to get where you need to go. Whether walking or driving, leave your current location 5-10 minutes early in case roads and sidewalks are covered with snow and ice. Try to park your vehicle in a clear area and watch where you step as you get in or out.
  • Anticipate ice. Be wary of thin sheets of ice that may appear as wet pavement (black ice). Try tapping your foot on potentially slick areas to see if they are safe to walk on. If not, find another route to take. Avoid taking shortcuts through areas where snow and ice have not been removed. Follow plowed, shoveled, and de-iced or sanded paths if possible.
  • Use special care when getting in and out of vehicles. If you are parked in a potentially slick area, use the door or seat to provide stability when entering or exiting a vehicle to maintain your balance.
  • Scan the path six or more feet ahead of you for trip hazards. Make sure your route ahead is clear of hazards such as rocks, clumps of snow, or a stray branch.
  • Walk slowly and take small steps. Walking slowly and taking small steps will help you maintain your balance.
    • Plant your feet firmly with each step and go slowly!
    • Bend your knees slightly to increase traction and walk flat-footed with your center of gravity directly over the feet as much as possible.
    • Point your feet out slightly like a penguin! Spreading your feet out slightly while walking on ice increases your center of gravity.
    • Extend your arms out to your sides to maintain balance.
    • Keep your hands out of your pockets (wear gloves to keep your hands warm). Hands in your pockets while walking decreases your center of gravity and balance. You can help break your fall with your hands if you do start to slip.
    • When walking on steps, always use the hand railings and plant your feet firmly on each step.
    • Be careful when you shift your weight. When stepping off a curb or getting into a car, be cautious since shifting your weight may cause an imbalance and result in a fall.
  • Wear proper footwear. Proper footwear should place the entire foot on the surface of the ground and have visible treads. Avoid a smooth sole and opt for a heavy treaded shoe with a flat bottom. As the name indicates, slip-resistant soles lessen your chance of slipping on ice, snow, or water. Special items like shoe grips or ice cleats can give you extra traction when you’re walking on snowy or icy surfaces. You can buy these items from places like department or sporting goods stores. Always take off these grips or cleats when walking inside because they can make you slip on indoor flooring.
  • Avoid carrying items that reduce your ability to see the ground in front of you. Whether it’s one big item or five small ones, ask for help or take multiple trips so that you are never obstructing your line of sight. Lighten your load! Use hands and arms for balance. A heavy load can change your balance.
  • If you do happen to slip, fall with sequential contacts at your thigh, hip, and shoulder. Avoid using outstretched arms to brace yourself. if you fall backward, tuck your chin into your chest to prevent hitting your head against the ground. Bend your back and head forward to avoid hitting your head against the ground.
  • When entering a building, be sure to wipe your feet. Removing as much snow and water as possible from your shoes will decrease your chance of slipping when walking around inside. Walk carefully and use available handrails.
  • Report icy walking areas to maintenance or your supervisor.

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