Outdoor Winter Safety – November 5, 2019

We all have to go outside sooner or later this winter. Knowing the hazards you will face and how to deal with them is important.

Safety on snow or Ice

While stepping, from your home car or business. Always keep in mind that you may be stepping on ice and can hurt yourself.

  • You should take short steps or shuffle for stability.
  • Bend slightly forward and walk flat-footed with your center of gravity directly over your feet as much as possible.
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets.
  • Be prepared to fall. If you fall, fall with sequential contact at your thigh, hip and shoulder. Avoid using outreach to arms to brace yourself.
  • Bend your back and head forward to avoid hitting your head against the ground.

Open Water Ice Safety

There is no good way to know if the open water ice is safe. Ice cannot be judged by its appearance, age, thickness, temperature. Some open water has flowing water underneath the ice. Making the ice thinner in those areas. Even snow coverage affects the ice thickness. The DNR has ice safety tips go to DNR Ice Safety Tips.

Outdoor Sports and Activities

Minnesotans love their outdoor sports and activities in the winter. Adults and kids love going snowmobiling, skaiing, ice-skating, sledding and other activities all season long. With just a few precautions and smart behavior, those activities should be safe and fun! For a checklist on winter safety please visit Sports and Activities.

Frostbite and Hypothermia

Frostbite is the freezing of skin and extremities on the body. The nose, cheeks, ears, fingers, and toes (your extremities) are the most commonly affected. Everyone is susceptible, even people who have been living in cold climates for most their lives.
In very cold weather, a person’s body can lose heat faster than they can produce it. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. It can make a person sleepy, confused and clumsy. Because it happens gradually and affects one’s thinking, it may not be immediately recognized. For more information go to CDC Frostbite and Hypothermia Awareness.

Snow Shoveling

While shoveling snow can be good exercise, it can also be deadly for optimistic shovelers who take on more than they can handle. Following a few precautions will help you get a handle on safe shoveling:

  • Older persons, or those who are relatively inactive, should be especially careful. If you have a history of heart trouble, check with your doctor before engaging in any shoveling activity.
  • Avoid shoveling after eating or while smoking.
  • Take it easy. Snow shoveling is a weight lifting exercise that raises your heart rate and blood pressure. Warm up before starting the job and stretch both before and after shoveling.
  • If possible, shovel only fresh snow that is still relatively powdery. It is easier to shovel than wet, packed-down snow.
  • Push the snow forward rather than lifting it out of the way; pick up only small amounts when needed. Your back will thank you.
  • As with any lifting activity, use your legs, not your back. Your legs should be bent with your back straight. Bend and “sit” into the movement, allowing your large muscle groups to do most of the work.
  • Never work to the point of exhaustion. Take frequent breaks. If your chest feels tight, stop immediately.
  • Dress as you would for any outdoor activity. Dressing in layers is the best. Take extra precautions for keeping the extremities warm.