Protect Yourself From Slip, Trip, and Fall Injuries in the Winter Months
Although we might not want to admit it, winter is right around the corner. And now that daylight savings is behind us, the days are only getting darker and colder. Unfortunately, the winter months can also be a huge safety hazard. Not only do the roads get dangerous, but there is a major increase in slip, trip, and fall injuries.
The results of a slip, trip or fall injury can be catastrophic. The impact of falling on the ground can cause anything from a bone fracture to a brain injury depending on how and where you’ve fallen. Although slip, trip, and fall injuries are often not fatal, they are the primary cause of lost days at work. It is especially important to be careful of this if you are elderly, since the elderly are more fragile and have a lower chance of full recovery if they have been injured from falling. Since these injuries happen more often in the winter due to a variety of changes in outdoor conditions, here are some of the best tips to help avoid a possible slip, trip, and fall injury.
Walk in Good Lighting
People generally fall because they didn’t anticipate the next step correctly. The most important way to combat this is by being able to see where you are going. This is why it is important to walk in good lighting. If you are elderly or have a loved one who is elderly, check to make sure that the elder’s home has easily accessible light switches. Some have even installed motion sensor lighting so that every room is automatically well lit when entered. Good lighting is especially important at staircases, long hallways, and deep closets. Some also use simple plug-in night lights for bathrooms and hallways that are bright and easy to use.
Since it is wintertime, it gets darker outside much earlier. If you are going outside in the dark, especially if there is snow or ice, you should definitely utilize any light source available. While some streets might be lit, there are many streets that have no lights. Having a good flashlight is preferred, but many use their smartphone’s flashlight feature if there is no flashlight available. Some smartphones allow you to adjust the intensity of the flashlight, so make sure yours is at the brightest setting.
Shovel Your Property
When the snow ultimately does come, shoveling right away is the best way to decrease someone’s chances of slipping and falling. If you wait too long to shovel snow, it could compact, sometimes even turn into ice, and become even more difficult to remove properly.
It is not enough to just shovel a small pathway wide enough to walk. The problem is that the temperature could rise and drop; causing the snow to melt and then freeze into a sheet of ice. Therefore, it is important to shovel snow far away so that there will always be a safe pathway to walk on.
After shoveling, the next important thing to do is to use sand or salt that is made to melt snow. It is very hard otherwise to remove all of the snow on a walkway, especially if the walkway is cobblestone or gravel. Using snow salt will eliminate the remaining snow in between those crevices. This will not only make it safer for you to walk, but it will make it safer for others who may walk on your property. If someone, trips and falls on your property because your walkways are not reasonably cleared of snow and ice, you could be liable.
No matter how careful you might be to make your home environment safe, other places may not be so safe. This is why it is very important to have proper footwear. Boots and shoes with good traction may greatly reduce the amount of unsteady steps you take. If there is a possibility of snow or ice on the ground, avoid shoes with low traction (like skateboarding shoes) or shoes that require more balance (like heels). Slipping on heels could easily cause a sprain or a fracture in the ankle. So if you must wear heels, wear something safer and then change into them once you are safely indoors.
In the event that you do slip, trip or fall, staying hands-free could make a difference in preventing serious injury. It is our body’s natural reaction to put our hands out when we feel that we are falling. So get into the habit of not carrying many things while walking around. Instead, carry items in a backpack or a purse. Additionally, keep your hands out of your pockets; they might not be quick enough to block your fall if they are in your pockets.
Watch Your Step
Even with the best boots on the market, it is still possible to slip or trip on difficult surfaces. Black ice is very slippery and can be hard to notice. Ultimately, you will need to watch your step when going out when it is very cold. Getting out of a car can be a hazard due to the fact that there is a lot of shifting in weight when getting in or out of a vehicle. So take special care when getting out of a car in the winter and use the vehicle for support to keep your balance in case there is ice.
If you think you see black ice, tap on it with your foot to gauge how slippery it is and avoid stepping on it if possible. If you find that you have to walk through a very icy area, remember to walk slowly with your hands out for balance. When you take a step, make sure that step is as flat-footed as possible. If there is something that you can hold on to while you walk, like a person or a handrail, hold on to that for support.
The same applies if you are in someone’s home. If they have wooden or laminate flooring, take caution and once again try to gauge if the floor is slippery. A particularly shiny wooden floor could indicate that the floor has been recently waxed and can be very slippery.
Hopefully, keeping these hazards in mind will help us to be safe as we approach the cold and snowy weather. Remember, if you get injured from falling in a premises that neglects to be a safe environment, that person could be responsible for your injury. If this occurs, it is a good idea to contact a lawyer to represent you to help get your medical bills paid for.
Palermo Law, P.L.L.C. is a personal injury law firm in Hauppauge, New York.