"Walking in a winter wonderland" often sounds like a romantic scene, but for more than 30,000 people per year, it can also mean an injury. Walking to and from parking lots and between buildings during the winter requires special attention to avoid slipping and falling, especially for seniors. To walk safely and enjoy your winter fall-free, follow these tips from Paoli Hospital's Lisa Eckenrode, Injury Prevention and Outreach Coordinator.
Transition Risks: Use special care when entering and exiting buildings or vehicles; use handrails or the vehicle for support as you transition from one position to the next.
Parking Lots: Statistics show that almost 80 percent of slips and falls due to snow and ice occur in parking lots and on sidewalks, with more than 50 percent occurring between 6 a.m. and noon. Take special caution while in parking lots in the morning.
North-Facing Entrances: When possible, avoid north-facing entrances to buildings. Unless properly cleared, these areas tend to remain icy and slippery.
Appropriate Footwear: Appropriate footwear in inclement weather is a must. Rubber and neoprene composite boots and shoes will give more traction than leather or plastic. Consider carrying your dress shoes rather than wearing them into work.
When You Can’t Avoid Walking on Slick Surfaces: If you must walk on a slippery surface, slow down, take small steps, and keep a hand free for balance. Bend your knees slightly and walk flat-footed with your center of gravity directly over your feet as much as possible. Bending slightly forward may help protect your head if your feet do slip out from under you.
Be Smart: Carrying items can impair your balance. Don’t try to carry more than you can easily manage and still maintain balance. Slow down and watch for hazards. Use handrails where available. If possible, do not carry children while walking on slippery ground because a fall could put the child's safety in serious jeopardy.
Indoor Risks: Wet surfaces are a huge risk. When entering buildings, remove snow and water from footwear to prevent creating wet slippery conditions indoors. Mop and dry spills immediately. Pay attention to caution or wet surface signs.
If you or a loved one falls and injures themselves, don't wait to get help. Call for medical assistance. The Paoli Hospital Trauma Center is the only hospital in Chester County with an accredited trauma center and recently earned recognition for 98 percent patient satisfaction.