Thursday, January 31, 2013

The hazards of winter walking

By Brian Birch
We hear about the dangers of driving in winter conditions all the time, and for good measure, as it can be very hazardous. But it’s amazing to me that we don’t hear more about walking safely during winter months. We need to change this...

For example, here are some quick stats, just from one risk management company report, Zurich Insurance:
  • 35% of slips of slip and fall incidents occurred in the parking lot or parking garage
  • Approximately 25% of payments for slip, trip, and fall claims were snow and ice related
Those stats apply to only one company, so you can start to imagine the scope of the problem. In fact, the impact from slips and falls on snow and ice are estimated in the billions across North America, literally billions of dollars!

When you start to research the statistics online, its hard to find good relevant data, but one thing is apparent; slips, trips, and falls are typically in the top 5 causes of injuries for the public, and for on-the-job injuries too. While there is a great deal of information about workplace safety related to tripping over a mop bucket, there is less about the hazards of walking in a parking lot that just got hit with freezing rain.

So for now, it’s up to all of us to share some basic best practices for walking safely in winter weather. These should be common sense, but we live in a culture that wants to do anything it wants, anytime it wants to do it! So here are some tips you can share with your friends and customers to spread awareness:

TIP #1: 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.

TIP #2: Accessorize to see and be seen. Wear sunglasses so that you can see in the reflective light of the snow. Also, wear a bright coat or scarf so that drivers can easily see you.

TIP #3: Plan ahead. While walking on snow or ice on sidewalks or in parking lots, walk consciously. Instead of looking down, look up and see where your feet will move next to anticipate ice or an uneven surface. Occasionally scan from left to right to ensure you are not in the way of vehicles or other hazards. 

TIP #4: Make sure you can hear. While seeing the environment is important, you also want to be sure you can hear approaching traffic and other noises. Avoid listening to music or engaging in conversation that may prevent you from hearing oncoming traffic or snow removal equipment.

TIP #5: Anticipate ice. Be wary of thin sheets of ice that may appear as wet pavement (black ice). Often ice will appear in the morning, in shady spots or where the sun shines during the day and melted snow refreezes at night. 

TIP #6: Walk steps slowly. When walking down steps, be sure to grip handrails firmly and plant your feet securely on each step.

TIP #7: Enter a building carefully. When you get to your destination such as school, work, shopping center, etc., be sure to look at the floor as you enter the building. The floor may be wet with melted snow and ice.

TIP #8: Be careful when you shift your weight. When stepping off a curb or getting into a car, be careful since shifting your weight may cause an imbalance and result in a fall.

TIP #9: Avoid taking shortcuts. Shortcuts are a good idea if you are in a hurry, but may be a bad idea if there is snow and ice on the ground. A shortcut path may be treacherous because it is likely to be located where snow and ice removal is not possible.

TIP #10: Look up. Be careful about what you walk under.  Injuries also can result from falling snow/ice as it blows, melts, or breaks away from awnings, buildings, etc.

We will share more information about what SIMA is doing to raise awareness through our Impact of Snow Initiative, stay tuned, and thanks to Pro-Tech Manufacturing & Distribution for supporting our awareness efforts!

Source: Managing slip, trip, and fall risks in snow and ice prone regions, Zurich Insurance

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