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It's Germane

Safety Tips for Winter Weather Conditions

Do you know the best ways to prevent slips, trips and falls in winter weather? 

Icy and snowy conditions present potential hazards which can lead to severe injuries.  See what the experts have to say to help you have a healthier, safer outdoor experience this winter.

The Department of Medicine and Health Science of DesMoines University offers the following advice:

  • Watch out for black ice. It’s best to assume that pavement is slippery, especially any wet, dark or shaded areas. If you’re shoveling, make sure you use proper technique and gear to keep you safe. 
  • Avoid footwear with smooth soles and heels. Instead wear shoes with good traction, like non-slip rubber or neoprene soles.  There are also products available with abrasive soles or cleats that provide traction. Make sure to remove these when entering buildings.
  • Use the frame of your car for support when getting into or out of the vehicle. Don’t hold objects—like coffee cups, backpacks or purses—while you are exiting; get completely out of the vehicle before grabbing any items.
  • Walk on designated walkways as much as possible. Don’t take shortcuts across piles of snow or where snow and ice removal is not feasible. Look ahead when you walk; a snow- or ice-covered sidewalk or driveway may require you to travel on the grassy edge for traction.
  • Don’t text or read while walking.

The Department of Medicine and Health Science of DesMoines University also recommends that we “walk like a Penguin” to prevent falls on snow and ice:

    • Point your feet out slightly. This will increase your center of gravity.
    • Bend slightly and walk flat-footed with your center of gravity directly over your feet.
    • Extend your arms to your sides for balance. This improves your balance by shifting your center of gravity, and you’ll be able to break your fall if you do start to slip (although try to avoid landing on your wrists, knees or spine; if possible, try to fall on a fleshy part of your body).
    • Go slowly.
    • Take short steps or shuffle.
    • Wear a heavy, bulky coat, not only for warmth but for a cushion if you do fall.
    • If you fall, try to relax your body. Relaxed muscles help distribute impact more evenly across your body, and therefore lessens your chance of injury.

If you must venture out in snowy and icy conditions, here are some additional precautions suggested by HealthyAging.org to help prevent slips and falls.

  • Make sure steps and walkways are clear before you walk.  Be especially careful if you see wet pavements that could be iced over. 
  • Clear away snow and salt your walkways at home, or hire someone to do it.
  • Wear boots with non-skid soles – this will prevent you from slipping.
  • If you use a cane, replace the rubber tip before it is worn smooth.
  • Consider an ice pick-like attachment that fits onto the end of the cane for additional traction.

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