Winter is in full swing, and for most of us that means ice and snow. While we prefer to focus on winter fun, winter is also a season of additional hazards not faced at other times of the year. The same ice and snow that makes skiing, snowboarding and ice skating possible, creates hazardous driving and walking conditions that can lead to slips, falls and dangerous travel. To keep winter fun and avoid serious injury, you need to know how to avoid accidents on ice and snow.
What can you do to avoid accidents on ice and snow and keep your winter season enjoyable and safe?
Preventing Slip-and-Fall Injuries
Education is essential in preventing winter weather-related injuries. Consider the following recommendations to prevent slip and fall injuries during the winter months:
- Wear proper footwear that provides traction on snow and ice. Footwear should be made of anti-slip material; avoid plastic and leather-soled shoes or boots. Consider low-heeled shoes for icy days.
- Exercise caution when entering and exiting vehicles, and use the vehicle for balance and support.
- Try to walk only in designated areas that are safe for foot traffic. If you notice that a walkway is covered in ice, walk on the grass next to the sidewalk, which will have more traction.
- Avoid steep inclines as they may be more treacherous in winter conditions.
- Take small steps to maintain your center of balance, walk slowly and never run. When possible, walk with your hands free to maintain your balance. And despite the cold temperatures, avoid putting your hands in your pockets. This will help you better maintain your balance and allow you to break a fall should you slip.
- Use handrails, walls or anything stationary to assist in steadying yourself.
- Look ahead to the path in front of you to avoid hazards.
- Test a potentially slippery area before stepping on it by tapping your foot on the surface first.
- Remove debris, water and ice from all working walkways.
- Steer clear of roof edges, floor openings and other drop-offs to avoid slipping hazards.
- Sand or salt surfaces covered by ice or snow to provide traction.
- Dry your shoes or boots on floor mats when entering a building.
If You Begin to Slip…
- Twist your body and roll backward to avoid falling forward and injuring your face.
- Try to relax your body when you start to feel your legs give way.
- If you are carrying a load, throw it off to the side so it does not land on you when you fall. This will also free your arms to help break your fall.
Preventing Skidding Accidents While Driving
One of the most dangerous winter driving hazards is ice. Encountering ice at high speed can lead to serious or potentially deadly accidents. Most ice-related crashes can be avoided by simply adjusting to driving conditions and knowing how to recover from a skid.
Skids are most likely to occur on curves and turns, so slow down ahead of time to prepare for them. Then, when in the curve, accelerate slowly and steer steadily with no abrupt change in direction and, especially, no abrupt braking. Driving smoothly in general can help prevent skids.
Skid Safety Techniques
If you go into a skid, remember two critical rules:
Don’t steer against the skid.
Avoid using the brakes.
Instead, immediately take your foot off the gas and steer in the direction the vehicle is sliding until you feel recovery of traction. Slowly straighten the wheels until you recover complete control. If the back of your vehicle is fishtailing, turn the wheel gently in the direction you are fishtailing until your car recovers.
If braking is necessary before traction is recovered, apply the brake pedal cautiously so you do not lock the wheels and intensify the skid. You will also have better brake control in a skid situation if your vehicle is equipped with anti-lock brakes.
You should constantly be on the lookout for areas that may be icy, such as shady areas or on overpasses. Keep in mind that wet ice, warmed by the sun, is twice as dangerous as completely frozen ice. Be especially alert whenever there is any kind of precipitation during cold weather.
General Winter Driving Tips
Since accidents are common in winter, you should be extra cautious while driving. Drive at reduced speed and increase following distance behind the vehicle ahead, especially in areas that may be icy. This gives an additional space cushion for safe stopping. Because winter driving can be risky, it is also a good idea to practice driving in slippery conditions so you are well-prepared and comfortable.
A safe stop on icy or snow-packed roads is a tricky maneuver that requires skill and good judgment.
Anticipate stops by slowing down gradually, well ahead of intersections. And allow more than enough time to stop safely.
Plan ahead of time for lane changes; check your rearview mirror, your blind spots and signal your intentions to traffic behind you. Then, swing over in a long, gradual line. Make the move with the smallest possible steering change and with a light foot on the gas.
When you drive into deep snow, stepping on the gas may cause the wheels to spin, with little, if any, forward movement. In such cases, avoid over-accelerating. A light foot on the gas pedal and a high gear is most effective.
Ensure Your Safety
Whenever you will be driving in any weather, be sure your vehicle is properly equipped. Your brakes should be functioning correctly, and your tires should be properly inflated with a good tread surface. Sometimes snow tires, and even chains, may be best to help keep your vehicle under control during dangerous winter conditions.
Following these tips will help you avoid accidents on ice and snow and keep winter a season of fun instead of fright on the snow and ice.
Do you need help with safety training and resources to help your employees stay healthy in winter–or any other season? We can help you with that. To learn more about our available safety resources provided free to Roper clients, contact us here.