December 21 marks the first day of winter. With cold and snowy weather approaching for much of the United States, this is a great time to take stock of some important safety tips for the months ahead.
In this article, we’ll divide our focus into three very important areas for winter weather safety: preventing slips and falls, driving safety and cold weather preparation for your home. For each of these areas, we’ve provided 10 simple tips for the winter months ahead.
The CDC reported that about 1 million U.S. adults are injured due to slips and falls each year, while the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported over 20,000 occupational injuries related to ice, sleet and snow.
Here are ten tips for reducing the risk of falls on slick surfaces this winter.
- Wear proper footwear, like boots or shoes with anti-slip soles. The treads should be able to disperse water and grip the ground.
- Plan ahead for snow removal – place salt on sidewalks ahead of winter weather and keep your driveway and sidewalks clear from snow, ice and debris.
- Walk slowly and cautiously, especially in areas that may become slick, like ramps, stairs, tile floors, parking lots and on metal surfaces.
- Avoid shaded areas: remember that areas that are not exposed to sunlight may stay frozen even when temperatures rise.
- Use handrails when going up and down stairs or ramps.
- Keep your hands out of your pockets to help you maintain balance.
- Watch for black ice, which is difficult to see, and always be aware of your surroundings.
- In slippery, high-traffic areas, consider placing non-skid floormats and caution signs in addition to ice melt or sidewalk salt.
- Use traction devices that strap onto shows when conditions require them.
- Use extra caution when entering and exiting your vehicle. Hold onto a grab-bar or doorframe for stability.
Snowy, icy road surfaces contribute to a high volume of car crashes and injuries each year. Take a look at the tips below to reduce your risk and travel safely this winter.
- Regularly service your vehicle. By proactively maintaining your vehicle, you won’t have to worry about your brakes, tires, battery and lights functioning in winter.
- Install winter tires that provide better traction on icy or snowy roads. Worn treads will not provide stability on wet or icy roads.
- Slow down and increase following distance when roads are slick. Reduced visibility and slippery surfaces require driving at a slower speed. Avoid sudden movements and leave extra room to decelerate before stop signs or traffic lights.
- Be mindful of black ice, a thin, transparent layer of ice that is difficult to spot. Be cautious, especially on shady areas, bridges, and overpasses. Reduce speed and avoid sudden maneuvers if you encounter black ice.
- Remove all snow and ice from your vehicle, including the roof, hood, windows, and lights. This prevents snow from obstructing your vision or becoming a hazard to other drivers.
- Use your headlights in winter weather and overcast conditions, even during the day, to increase visibility for yourself and others.
- Avoid cruise control: it’s essential to have full control of your vehicle and to be able to react immediately if road conditions change. If you begin to skid, turn the vehicle in the direction you want to go. Ease your foot off the decelerator, and do not hit the brakes.
- Always have a good ice scraper – driving without clear visibility through your windshield or windows is dangerous. Know the weather conditions you may encounter and plan ahead.
- Turn on hazards to increase visibility when pulling over due to unsafe driving conditions.
- Have a safety kit in the trunk of your car, just in case – including blankets, a safety vest, warning triangle and flares.
Cold weather isn’t just a hazard for slips and vehicle crashes, it can also pose a threat to your home. Here are some tips for avoiding frozen pipes or other winter weather related claims, as well as some additional items for your winter checklist.
- Inspect and seal gaps: check doors, windows and other openings for air leaks. Use weatherstripping or caulk to seal gaps and prevent cold drafts from entering your home to avoid a bloated heating bill this winter.
- Service your heating system. A routine, professional inspection and maintenance can ensure your furnace is performing at peak efficiency this winter.
- Schedule a cleanout of your ventilation system. Poor airflow can not only reduce efficiency of your HVAC, dust and debris in your ducts can also pose a fire hazard.
- Clean and inspect chimneys and fireplaces. This eliminates the risk of chimney fires and ensures proper ventilation.
- Insulate exposed pipes to reduce the risk of freezing. Unheated areas, such as the attic, basement, crawl space or under sinks are at the greatest risk. Consider allowing faucets to drip during extremely cold nights to prevent pipe bursts.
- Clear debris from gutters and downspouts to allow proper drainage. This prevents ice dams from forming, which can lead to water damage and roof leaks.
- Stock up on winter essentials: create an emergency supply kit that includes items like extra blankets, flashlights, batteries, non-perishable food and bottled water. Be ready for potential power outages or severe weather events.
- Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and test them to ensure they are functioning correctly. These devices are crucial for early detection and protection.
- Properly store outdoor furniture and equipment. Clean and store outdoor furniture, gardening tools and equipment in a protected area. This extends their lifespan and prevents damage or rust caused by harsh winter conditions.
- Insulate your home. Check your insulation and add more if necessary, especially in the attic and walls. Well-insulated homes retain heat more effectively, reducing energy consumption and heating costs. Consider window wraps: these plastic sheets block drafts during cold months to help keep your home energy-efficient.
We hope you found these tips to be helpful. Follow this guide and you’ll be on track for a safe winter. Spring weather will be here before you know it!
This article was produced in a partnership with KPA.
This content is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice. Gregory & Appel is neither a law firm nor a tax advisor; information in all Gregory & Appel materials is meant to be informational and does not constitute legal or tax advice.