Prevent slips and falls this winter
Winter is right around the corner. That means that most people will be trading in windbreakers and rakes for heavy coats and snow shovels. Winter can be a beautiful time of the year, but the snow and ice that covers the landscape in a pristine sheet of white can present certain hazards as well.
Walking on ice can be extremely dangerous, particularly to those people who already may have mobility issues, such as the elderly. According to the National Safety Council, slips and falls are the single largest cause of emergency room visits. Slip and fall injuries also are the third largest cause of workplace injuries, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Many accidental falls occur from lack of stability or poor physical health. However, come winter, many falls can be attributed to walking on slippery surfaces covered with snow or ice. To avoid falls on ice, men and women might want to take certain precautions.
Change the way you walk
Adapting to the slippery conditions could help prevent some of the falls caused by snow and ice. When walking on ice, plant feet with toes facing outward slightly, and then shuffle along. Hunching over a little and extending arms outward will help to lower your center of gravity and also offer a little more stability. Take short, flat steps so that the heels and toes of your shoes stay in contact with the ground as much as possible and offer maximum surface contact.
You should not take large strides or move quickly. This can definitely lead to slips and falls. Rather, leave extra time to get to and fro, especially when walking to mass transit or to and from your car when commuting.
Flat shoes with rubber soles are more capable of gripping the ice than other types of shoes. Contrary to popular belief, clunky winter boots may make walking more difficult. Try rain boots instead, as rain boots typically have flatter soles. There also are many different types of shoe ice grips on the market that can be added to the soles of shoes. They easily slip on to offer more traction. Whenever possible, try to avoid shoes with already slippery soles or high heels. Carry these shoes with you and change after you are inside.
Keeping on top of falling snow can help alleviate slippery walkways. Use a combination of snowmelt and sand so that you can keep sidewalks clear.
Remove shoes indoors
Slips and falls can happen inside a home as well. Many people have tile or laminate entryways in their homes, and these entrances can become quite slippery when snow-packed shoes warm up and the snow melts, creating a wet, slick surface. Avoid falls by placing mats by the front door and removing shoes when you enter. Stash a pair of slippers nearby into which you can change.
Carrying heavy bags can disrupt your center of gravity and contribute to falls. Whenever possible, travel light or use a backpack to evenly distribute weight to help you walk more easily.
Falls on slippery surfaces can be quite dangerous. Avoid trips to the emergency room for broken bones or abrasions by slowing down, dressing appropriately and walking on paths that have been cleared of snow and ice.
There are many good things about a fresh coating of snow on the ground, especially for those who are avid outdoor enthusiasts. Fresh powder makes for ideal skiing conditions as well as opportunities for snowshoeing and snowboarding.
Fresh snow also means having to clean up driveways and sidewalks. Snow shoveling is something many people do not enjoy, and it can potentially be dangerous if not done properly.
The possibility of an accident or injury while shoveling snow is very real. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons states that the most common injuries associated with snow removal include sprains and strains, particularly in the back and shoulders. Individuals who use snowblowers are not immune to injury, either. The Consumer Product Safety Commission found that more than 6,000 people were injured using snowblowers in 2009. Injuries from snowblowers can include lacerations and finger amputations.
Serious health problems may result from snow shoveling and snowblowing, including heart failure from overexertion. Many people are simply not physically fit enough to move heavy quantities of snow. Those who are may not treat snow removal as they would a strenuous exercise, which would need a warm-up period so as not to strain muscles. Furthermore, improper body mechanics can put undue stress on the lower back and cause herniated discs or degeneration in the spine.
To make reduce the risk of injury when shoveling snow, consider the following tips.
• Consult first with a doctor to get a health assessment. If you are restricted from certain strenuous exercises, it stands to reason that you will be restricted from shoveling snow as well. Many people underestimate just how strenuous snow removal can be.
• Choose the right snow shovel or snowblower. Tools with a curved handle or an adjustable length handle will help you feel more comfortable and minimize slouching and arching of the back. Select a shovel or snowblower that is lightweight to reduce the amount of weight you have to move in addition to the weight of the snow.
• Dress appropriately for the weather by layering clothing. Layering enables you to remain warm, but then shed layers should you become overheated. Sweating and having damp clothing could put you at risk for hypothermia. Be sure to cover extremities to guard against frostbite.
• Warm up muscles by treating snow removal for what it is -- a physical activity. Cold, tight muscles are more prone to injury, say experts. It is adviseable to spend 10 to 15 minutes with moderate exercise to get the body ready for the workout ahead. Take a brisk walk and stretch your arms, legs and back. It is best to limber up to avoid injury.
• Begin shoveling slowly, lifting only small amounts of snow. Remember that it is not a race, and there are no prizes offered for getting the job done in record time.
• Keep your back straight while bending your knees to lift snow. Position your feet wide apart for the best distribution of weight.
• Carry the shovelfuls of snow to where you want them, rather than tossing snow to the side or over your shoulders, which can only injure your body. Try to keep your arms close to your body to reduce stress on the spine.
• If using a snowblower, always wear eye protection.
• Never reach into the blades of a snowblower to dislodge snow or another obstruction. Turn off the snowblower first and wait for a few seconds to let the blades recoil before attempting to clear the blades.
• Turn off the engine any time you are walking away from the snowblower.
• Keep tabs on the electrical cord so that you don’t trip or accidentally run over it.
• Do not allow children to operate the snowblower.
If you are not feeling well, it is best to leave snow removal to someone else. Many lawn care services double as snow removal businesses once the seasons change. Check to see what plans your landscaper offers.
Snow removal is a fact of life for many people each winter. Treat it as a strenuous exercise that requires proper technique to help minimize injuries.