Des Moines University Clinic Health Topics: Fall Prevention in Snow and Ice

Prevent falls on snow and ice: Walk like a penguin

The winter weather forecast for Iowa is here, and along with it snow and ice. Parking lots, sidewalks and driveways can be slippery no matter how well snow and ice are removed, so make sure you “walk like a penguin” to avoid falls and injuries this winter season.

How to prevent falls on snow and ice

Des Moines University recommends the following important safety tips for walking on show and ice:

  • Watch out for black ice. It’s best to assume that pavement is slippery, especially any wet, dark or shaded areas. If you’re shoveling, make sure you use proper technique and gear to keep yourself safe.
  • Avoid footwear with smooth soles and heels. Instead wear shoes with good traction, like non-slip rubber or neoprene with grooved soles. There are also products available with abrasive soles or cleats that provide traction. Make sure to remove these when entering buildings.
  • Use the frame of your car for support when getting into or out of the vehicle. Don’t hold objects—like coffee cups, backpacks or purses—while you are exiting; get completely out of the vehicle before grabbing any items.
  • Walk on designated walkways as much as possible. Don’t take shortcuts across piles of snow or where snow and ice removal is not feasible. Look ahead when you walk; a snow- or ice-covered sidewalk or driveway may require you to travel on the grassy edge for traction.
  • Don’t text or read while walking.

Walk like a penguin on ice and snow

  • Point your feet out slightly. This will increase your center of gravity.
  • Bend slightly and walk flat-footed with your center of gravity directly over your feet.
  • Extend your arms to your sides for balance. This improves your balance by shifting your center of gravity, and you’ll be able to break your fall if you do start to slip (although try to avoid landing on your wrists, knees or spine; if possible, try to fall on a fleshy part of your body).
  • Go slowly.
  • Take short steps or shuffle.
  • Wear a heavy, bulky coat, not only for warmth but for a cushion if you do fall.
  • If you fall, try to relax your body. Relaxed muscles help distribute impact more evenly across your body, and therefore lessens your chance of injury.

With Iowa winter weather, snow and ice are inevitable, but by following some of these tips and walking with care while you have to be outside, you can be safe all winter long.

If you need help recovering from a fall this winter, our exceptional physical therapists at the Des Moines University Clinic can help you. For more information, to sign up for exercise classes and special programs, or to make an appointment, visit the DMU Clinic website or call 515-271-1717.

Disclaimer: This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Vickie Behrends, M.S.

Vickie has been with DMU since 1985 and has served as the Health and Safety Manager since 1997. Many of her responsibilities involve research compliance such as biosafety, radiation and chemical safety. She is also involved in emergency management, occupational health and waste management.

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