Winter Weather Hazards: Slips, Trips and Falls

I think pretty much everyone has had the experience of slipping and falling on ice.  When I did my pilot study for this project, at least 5 of the 27 injury reports I collected had to do with slipping on ice or snow. Slipping on icy surfaces can be more dangerous on the farm than it is in other places.  If you combine a slip on the ice with carrying heavy loads, using tools, being near running equipment, working with tools,  or working with large animals, the potential for severe injuries goes up.

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The best thing you can do to prevent slips and falls is to make sure that the areas where people walk and work are cleared of ice and snow  and to use sand or salt for extra grip on surfaces. Be particularly careful about keeping stairways and elevated work surfaces clear.  One neat idea I’ve seen for salting and sanding is to use one of those lawn and garden  broadcast fertilizer spreaders to spread salt and sand. It makes the job go faster over large areas, and results in an even distribution. Putting shovels and buckets of salt or sand near where they need to be used can be a reminder to clear and salt walkways and  makes it more convenient to do the job.

If you have to walk on a slick surface, boots with thicker treads or ice cleats over boots can also help you get a grip .Using short steps with your center like a penguin can also help prevent slips and falls.

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The best way to avoid fall-related injuries is to prevent the fall from happening.  However, if you do feel yourself falling there are a couple of things you can do to minimize injuries.  Don’t catch yourself with your arms because it’s easy to break your wrist that way.  Try to bend your knees as much as possible so that the distance you fall is shorter.  Tilt your head forward, touching your chin to your chest and curl the top part of you’re body to prevent your head from hitting the ground.  Hit the ground butt first then rock backwards. Once your back has hit the ground you can use your arms to stop your momentum if you need to.  I’ve been doing aikido and jujitsu for a few years now and the single most useful thing I’ve learned is how to fall backwards.It takes a lot of practice to build up enough muscle memory to automatically fall this though, and it won’t prevent all injuries, so once again the best thing you can do is prevent slips and falls by keeping walkways clear and salted.