If you have ever lived in a cold climate, you know that your chance of injury and illness increase significantly during the winter season. Because of this, it is important to protect yourself from the many problems associated with the cold, whether that means putting snow tires on your car or getting vaccines to guard against the flu and other seasonal illnesses. However, you also should not forget to take steps against the slips, trips and falls that are common in the winter months. While these incidents may seem like a classic example of physical comedy, they can often be extremely dangerous: studies show that slips, trips and falls account for 15% of all accidental deaths, making them the second only to automobile fatalities.
Across the United States, slips and falls are the cause of 300,000 serious injuries and 20,000 deaths a year. The percentage of these cases is slightly higher in areas with severe winter weather: for example, during last year’s infamously difficult winter, one-third of worker’s compensation claims filed in the Midwest cited slipping and falling as the cause of their injuries and lost time from work. In total, slip and fall cases account for 64% of all winter weather injury claims, a number that appears to be growing: from 2013-2014, the number of these doubled from the previous year, making up 29% of all worker’s compensation claims filed over the course of the season.
To prevent this type of common incident, it is important to recognize potentially dangerous situations that could result in a slip, trip or fall. These cases can occur almost anywhere, including indoors, where tracked-in, blown-in or leaked-in precipitation can cause wet, slippery surfaces. However, parking lots are the most common site of slips, trips and falls, followed by wood decks, cement or slate stairs, stone or brick walkways, and other areas open to snow, ice and heavy traffic. To avert injuries, you should try to wear shoes with good traction, avoid icy or wet areas, and step carefully. Do not put your hands in your pockets, as this can compromise your balance, and use designated walkways, like sidewalks, which are typically cleared of ice and snow. Inadequate lighting should also be treated with caution, as it can camouflage holes, cracks, uneven surfaces and ice that can lead to slips, trips and falls. If you notice inadequate lighting or a damaged surface in a public walking area, report it to a local business or the local authorities.