Canadian sidewalks and streets become a perilous place every winter. In October and November, the first frosts begin to come by. The first few snowfalls of winter are welcomed by southern Ontario residents who have just made it through a hot and sticky summer. By the time December comes around, there is often a heavy layer of white, fluffy snow outside your door. Soon, the novelty of snow fades away, and we’re forced to shovel our walkways and bundle up in coats and scarves. Extreme weather conditions can be fun for kids, as it can mean a day off school and the opportunity to toss snowballs around. For adults, it’s a much more serious concern. Dealing with cold weather entails more than just a few extra chores – it’s also a hazard that can lead to dangerous situations. Snow and ice inevitably lead to slippery sidewalks, slippery walkways, and unfortunately cause some to lose their footing and fall, causing a “slip and fall” type personal injury. Staying inside all winter long is impossible (and not recommended), and you can’t venture outdoors draped in layers of bubble wrap. Instead, we’re offering you several practical safety measures that minimize any hazards that come about from walking on winter streets.
Why a Seemingly Safe Sidewalk Can Still Cause Slip and Fall Injuries
Canadians consider themselves a hardy bunch of people who can deal with snow and ice without too much hassle. We like to joke about our American neighbours who seemingly shut everything down after a slight sprinkling of snow. As long as a sidewalk is ‘clear enough’, we figure that we’re good to go. There’s more to safety than just having enough room to step, however. Hazards like ice can be difficult to spot at times, especially at night. If the snow is fresh, the property owner or municipality may not have applied rock salt yet. Finally, even rock salt can be useless if the temperatures hit a certain level. Extreme cold nullifies rock salt and leads to many slip and fall injuries. During the ice storms and record low temperatures that have plagued southern Ontario this winter, many common routes became incredibly dangerous to traverse. The route that you’ve trusted to take you to school or work every day can suddenly become an ice zone. In scenarios like this one, it is extremely important for a person to gear up and plan appropriately for smooth and stealthy patches of ice.
Suit Up: Safety Steps That Cut Down on the Risk of a Slip and Fall Injury
On a busy morning, your top priorities are normally getting dressed and out the door for work on time. Many slip and fall experts suggest that by waking up ten or fifteen minutes early for some initial preparation you can vastly decrease your chances of a slip and fall accident or injury. Between this small sacrifice, and investing a weekend to pick up the appropriate gear, you can protect yourself from the vast majority of slippery situations.
Avoid Falls by Stepping Lightly and Adjusting Your Stance
Even something as basic as your stance can affect your safety on ice. A surprising amount of slip and fall cases stem from people who panic at the sight of ice. Many people, when faced with a long stretch of slippery ice, lock up and freeze. They take small, tense steps and keep their body rigid out of panic. This instinctive response is one of the worst things that you can do. Instead, slow down, and breathe deep. If you watch a fighter in the ring, you’ll notice that he or she will keep their feet far apart and their shoulders relaxed. This stance keeps them balanced, even when being pummeled by an opponent. When faced with a terrifying walkway, think like a fighter. You want to keep your body as loose as possible, and keep your feet spread out. Your knees should be nice and loose, and bent slightly, so that your centre of gravity is around your hips and not your torso. Every step should be small and steady, maintaining your wide base of support. Shift your weight to your forefront foot with every step, and keep going.
Gear Up With Well-Made “Non Slip” Winter Equipment
Once you have the basic posture down, you should consider investing in winter gear that will help you get from point A to point B safely. Poorly constructed boots and coats are all too common. Many medical experts can attest that slip and fall accidents can lead to hip, tailbone, and even head injuries that seriously affect your mobility. The most important piece of winter gear that you can pick up is a pair of boots that are waterproof, well insulated, lightweight, and have thick tread soles. Avoid anything with a pronounced heel or that is unnecessarily heavy. A pair of good boots can be the difference between getting to your destination safely and suffering a serious injury. In scenarios like the Ontario ice storm, or for people who are not confident in their ability to travel through snow and ice, there is more advanced gear. “Grippers” are traction cleats that can be secured to the bottom of a boot. Just as the name suggests, they “grip” onto ice and prevent your foot from sliding. If you use a cane or a walker, ice picks can be attached to this equipment to provide a similar effect. By providing this extra grip, you severely reduce the chances that a stray patch of ice will cause you to lose your footing.
A slip and fall injury happens within a fraction of a second, but the impact on your life can be enormous and last much longer. They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The lawyers at Wynperle Law Firm recommend you follow the safety tips above. By taking some time and care, you can dramatically slash your risks of winter time accidents. In the event that you or someone you love is injured as a result of extreme weather like the southern Ontario snowstorms, contact us today at 866-696-0300 for a free consultation.