Anyone who lives in the northeast knows that winter can be dangerous. Low temperatures, snow storms, and ice are all commonplace but unpredictable, which is why we have compiled a list of important winter safety tips.

Black Ice

winter safety black iceOne of the biggest challenges drivers face when snow starts to fall and temperatures drop is black ice. Black ice occurs when water freezes on an asphalt road, which makes

ice difficult — if not impossible — to see, oftentimes sending motorists careening off the highway.

There are a few steps you can take to drive safely on black ice.

  • Avoid tailgating and leave plenty of room to brake when slowing down or stopping. It can take nine times as long to stop in snow or ice as in clear conditions.
  • Slow or brake as soon as you see brake lights, rather than waiting to catch up with the car ahead. This helps to maintain a safe distance between cars.

When possible, avoid driving altogether in these weather conditions. This is safer for you and other drivers who need to be out on the roads.

Snow on Car

Some drivers ignore the snow on the roofs of their cars when they head to work in the morning, but this puts them and other motorists at risk.

There are many ways that snow on the roof of a car is dangerous.

  • It can fall in front of your windshield when you brake, obstructing your view of the road.
  • Snow can fall off the back of the roof, creating road obstructions or damaging other cars on the road.
  • Shards of ice called ice missiles can fly off of cars and seriously injure or kill the people they hit.

Clearing cars of snow can also prevent fines, as failing to do so is illegal in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and many other states. In some cases, merely having snow on top of the car can warrant a fine, while other states only issue fines in the event of a injury.  

Sickness

Cold air brings more than just snow and ice: it also leads to the spread of illnesses like the flu.  There are many reasons why the flu spreads quickly during the winter months.winter safety flu sickness

  • Our bodies are less able to fight viruses because of lower Vitamin D from shorter days and spending time inside.
  • More time inside also means that we are around people more and come into contact with more germ-covered surfaces. (For example, instead of walking on a nice day, you are more likely to take a bus or train.)
  • Viruses thrive in dry environments, and winter tends to have drops in humidity.

Knowing the causes of illness can help prevent flu symptoms and other illnesses during winter weather.

  • Invest in humidifiers to keep the air moist, making a stronger effort to clean indoor surfaces, and taking for immune system boosters.
  • Get a flu shot each year, which can prevent or lessen flu-like symptoms.  

Sidewalk Ice

Even the best footwear can’t guarantee to protect pedestrians from slippery sidewalks. At best, these falls leave an embarrassing bruise. At worst, falls on icy sidewalks can break limbs or cause brain damage and skull fractures.

Homeowners and business managers need to follow the local ordinances for clearing pedestrian walkways. While the city is in charge of major roadways, the responsibility falls on individuals to clean up the sidewalks.

  • Clear away any snow that falls so that it can’t melt and refreeze into ice.
  • Salt the sidewalks adjacent to your business to melt any ice. Keep a few bags of salt at your location in case there are unplanned flurries overnight.

Failing to keep a sidewalk clean can lead to steep fines from the local government. It also puts the lives of local residents at risk, which can lead to lawsuits. Always keep a clean walkway, no matter how much snow is expected.

Frostbite

Frostbite occurs when the human body starts to freeze from the cold. Ice crystals form in your frostbite winter safetyveins, blocking the flow of blood. Anyone is susceptible to frostbite, but it most often affects people with poor blood circulation. Frostbite is most common on the fingers, toes, cheeks, and nose. In severe cases, it can lead to gangrene, and an amputation may be the only treatment option.

One of the main symptoms of frostbite is numbness, which means that many people don’t realize they are developing frostbite until it is too late.

To prevent frostbite during the winter months:

  • Bundle up in appropriate winter weather apparel and keep sensitive areas like the hands and face covered.
  • Stay inside as much as possible and seek shelter if your skin is growing red from exposure to the cold.
  • Avoid over-consumption of alcohol during the coldest months, as this can make it difficult to recognize how your body is reacting to the cold.    

Carbon Monoxide

In the winter, it’s tempting to stay inside and turn up your thermostat to stay warm However, many conventional heating methods also put homeowners at increased risk of fire or carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to stay safe.

  • Make sure your home is properly ventilated (especially the garage and any room with a generator) so that any gases are pushed outside.
  • Check the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms monthly. These alarms can alert families to the dangerous levels of CO in the air or smoke that may be caused by unsafe heating systems.

Follow these guidelines and practice carbon monoxide safety to help your family stay healthy throughout the winter. You can stay warm and cozy without putting your home at risk.  

Dehydration

When you think of dehydration, it is easy to picture hot sunny days where we need a steady flow of water to cool down. However, dehydration is just as possible during the winter as it is in the summer. During winter months, sweat evaporates faster than it does during the summer. Even if you are doing outdoor activities like exercising or shoveling the driveway, you typically don’t notice the loss of moisture and forget that you need more water. Plus, you are less likely to reach for a cool glass of water during cold months when you want to heat up instead.

When the weather gets cold, make an effort to stay hydrated and keep up with the same fluid intake as the summer months. The human body works harder in the winter to keep warm and carry heavy winter clothes. One way to stay strong and healthy is with extra fluids keeping your systems going.

Snow Melt

With every snowfall comes the melt, which means water pooling around the house or getting tracked inside on our shoes and clothes. This might just seem like a cleaning nuisance, but it can actually become hazardous. Anyone can slip on the water and fall. A small bump can turn into a bone bruise or fracture that takes months (and several expensive doctor’s visits) to heal.

There are a few things you can do in your home to keep it safe and clean.

  • Durable rugs that catch water at each doorway help prevent melted snow from getting tracked inside.
  • Coat hangers and storage areas for boots and cold weather accessories discourage guests and family members from bringing them into the house. This prevents the spread of water and keeps your home warm, dry, and safe.      

Pulled Muscles from Shoveling

For many people, more snow means more time spent shoveling the driveway. If you don’t shovel the snow immediately, it can refreeze and become a dangerous block of ice. However, shoveling isn’t always easy. On average, more than 70,000 people have a shoveling-related injury bad enough to lead to a doctor’s visit each year, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission. While snow might seem light and fluffy, it can do serious damage to your body.

To prevent pulled muscles from snow shoveling,

  • Wear the right gear, including strong-grip boots and thick gloves.
  • Lift slowly with the knees to avoid overexertion and back injuries.
  • Don’t rush through the job. Shovel small chunks slowly instead of trying to move a whole pile at once. It is better to take a little longer shoveling the driveway than to end up in the ER.

Sunburn

It’s easy to miss the sun in the cold winter months, but just because it isn’t warm doesn’t mean it’s gone altogether. Sunburn can occur any time of the year, even when the sun is weaker during the winter months. When you are outside for longer periods of time, you are at risk of getting sunburn on any parts of your exposed skin.

Winter sunburn is often called “snow-burn,” because the sun reflects off the white snow and harms your skin.

There are a few ways to protect against sun or snow burn.

  • Invest in a daily moisturizer that also has SPF care. This keeps skin healthy during dry months while building a daily habit of skin protection.
  • Invest in the right eye wear. Grab a pair of sunglasses before heading out the door so the sun’s rays are blocked and your eyes are protected.

 

The winter is a dangerous time, and it is important to stay informed and be prepared. Some accidents are impossible to avoid, but some are easily preventable with a little foresight.