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What to Do to Prevent a Fall in Winter

Updated on January 5, 2014

Warning sign for icy pavement


Winter time is fall time!

Last week, one of my friends fell over ice just in front of his house ending up with an ankle fracture. He is now at home with mandatory period of 2 weeks with a cast on after a major surgery which involved a metal insertion. He will definitely have to stay at home for 3 months risking his job too.

Among other things, winter time is notorious for fall injuries. it is serious among seniors due to high risk of bone fractures even sometimes becoming it fatal.

Following video clearly shows how easy and dangerous a slippery fall injuries over ice.

See how easy one may fall

Fall injuries; major public health and social problem

Falls are the major cause for injuries among Canadians especially when they are 65 years and above. One fifth of falls among them may be fatal according the Public Health Agency in Canada. With regard to hospital admissions, among all injury-related admissions, almost one third are likely to be due to falls and as much as 85% of seniors' hospital admissions may be due to falls.

In terms of severity, 40% of hospital admissions among seniors with a fall end up in a hip fracture and half of them will never regain normal full functional status.

An amount of 2 billion dollars are spent annually as direct cost following hospital admissions and 40% admissions to nursing homes. The indirect social costs can be anyone's guess and problems could be anything under the sun.

When does fall occur?

As you can see in the following graph, falls among seniors are most common at home and in walking when compared to youngsters whose injuries are primarily sports related.

Mechanics of walking

Before discussing preventive steps, it is important to think deeper about the mechanics of walking.

When a person is standing in an upright erect posture, the body's center of gravity lies at the level of umbilicus and inside the body. If the person beds into a L position, the center of gravity shifts outside the body increasing likelihood of falling.

Normal gait of walking consists of two phases;

- stance and

- swing.

While in the former phase, one leg is in contact with the ground, in the latter, the other leg moves forward to take the next step. When the heel of the swing leg touches the ground, the stance phase begins again.

What is a stride?

A complete walking cycle is called a "stride" ; from one heel -ground contact to another heel-ground contact of the same foot.

What really happens in walking is the center gravity of the body moves forward out of the body risking a fall, but it is averted with in-time safe landing of the swing foot.

Fall types on a same level of surface

fall type
one or both foot slide forward
due to a sudden obstruction
fall after failing to balance even after few steps
while getting out of a chair or from a vehicle
comple collapse on the floor

Black ice = Clear ice

it is a thin coating of a glazed ice on a surface. Although it is called black, it is exactly the opposite. It is clear and transparent. It is called black merely because we can see through the black pavement underneath.

How black ice is formed?

Black ice is nothing but a thin layer of ice which is transparent. It is formed when any sort of moisture, either snow or just rain, falls on a surface which is below freezing temperature with air temperature being a bit warmer.

How can we remove black ice

1. Thin ice always melts away quickly, if sun shines on it. Look out for sun shine first.

2. Sprinkle table salt on black ice

2. Use calcium chloride if temperature is too low.

3. Use "ice melt" product [Potassium chloride]

4. Break ice with a shovel.

5. Think of a radiant heating system under a driveway if it is a recurrent place for black ice.

How to prevent a fall due to ice

1. Wear shoes which increase traction on ice.

2. Avoid wearing high heels and smooth surface shoes.

3. buy special over the shoe ice cleats.

4. Walk on cleared or treated surfaces whenver possible. Avoid short cuts

5. use elevators and walk through buildings even it takes more time.

6. walk slowly and take short steps - hit the ground first mid-feet not the heel

7. avoid carrying heavy loads

8. use shoulder straps on bags to keep hands free

9. wear gloves and keep hands out of pockets

10. The body should always be centered over the feet.

11. avoid areas of poor lighting whenever possible.

12. Change direction carefully when walking on slippery surface.

13. use handrails on stairs.

14. Place your full attention on walking

15. Be aware on changes of friction over walking surfaces - from snow to ice, form curb to pavement, or road, from inside to outside

16. Test potentially slippery areas by tapping your foot on.

17. Watch out when stepping out of the vehicle.

18. use the vehicle for support when stepping out

19. remove snow from your soles of footwear as you enter a building or a vehicle

Safety Tips in Walking in Winter Time

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