07 December 2012
Staying Safe during the Colder Weather Months

As the colder weather approaches, are you prepared for the dangers winter weather can bring? Slips and falls have historically increased at Fort Detrick from December thru February, which has lead to many injuries. Fiscal year 2012 was a relatively mild winter and our slips and falls rate was way down, but the one weather-related fall resulted in 33 lost-time days.  As you can see, slips and falls can negatively affect our mission.The Department of Public Works’ snow removal personnel and building occupants do their very best at keeping the roads, sidewalks and steps clear of snow and ice.  However, there may be icy patches that they have not had a chance to salt or clear before you walk to your office or work-station.  

Walking to and from parking lots and between buildings during the winter requires special attention to avoid slipping and falling.  We often forget how dangerous slipping and falling can be.  The National Safety Council estimates that occupational falls cause more than 1500 deaths per year, along with approximately 300,000 injuries.    

Be careful how you walk!  Plan ahead and give yourself enough time.  Wear appropriate foot wear, boots or shoes that provide good traction and keep your feet warm -- you can change into your nice shoes once you’re safely inside your building. When walking on steps always use the hand-railings and plant your feet firmly on each step.  On an icy or snow-covered walkway, take short steps and walk at a slower pace so you can react quickly to a change in traction.  Bending your knees slightly while taking slower and shorter steps increases traction and can greatly reduce your chance of falling.  It also helps to stop occasionally, to break momentum.  Always approach cleared streets and sidewalks with caution.

Look out for “black ice!”  Dew or water vapor can freeze on cold surfaces, forming an extra-thin, nearly invisible layer of ice that can look like a wet spot on the pavement.  It can happen early in the morning or in areas shaded from the sun.  A heavy backpack or other load can challenge your sense of balance.  Try not to carry too much, as you need to keep your hands and arms free to balance yourself better.  When entering a building, remove as much snow and water from your boots as you can.  Notice that floors and stairs may be wet and slippery, so walk carefully.  

Be aware of where you walk!  If sidewalks are covered with snow and ice, one option is to walk along their grassy edges for traction.  Taking shortcuts through areas where snow and ice removal has not been completed can be hazardous.  

Avoid areas with falling ice!  There are enough dangers from falling on ice.  However, let’s not loose sight of ice that might fall on YOU!  Watch out for Icicles hanging from eaves, sheets of ice on sloping roofs, and tree branches covered with ice.  They can fall quickly and silently.  

Even though most of our winter-related injuries at Fort Detrick are due to slips and falls, we must still be mindful of frostbite/hypothermia and weather-related vehicle accidents.  Ensure you dress properly and that your vehicle is prepared for winter.   

In conclusion, regardless of whether you are on or off duty, on post or not, it is important to take the time to recognize the risks involved in the activities in which you are engaged, and to take the appropriate action to reduce these risks.

Posted by PAO

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