Winter Safety Reminders
Winter is here, and coming with it is the snow, ice, and frigid temperatures. Brush up on your winter safety knowledge so you and the people we support can enjoy everything the season has to offer.
Shoveling snow ensures sidewalks remain safe for pedestrian traffic. Not only that, but also it’s a decent and convenient way to get in some exercise!
Dress for the occasion
Frostbite can happen if you’re unprepared, so bundle up and cover exposed skin. Especially vulnerable areas include your nose, cheeks, lips, ears, hands, and feet.
Wear loose-fitting, warm layers.
A winter coat, hat, scarf, and mittens are a must. You want to retain body heat but avoid overheating by shedding layers, if needed.
Lace up in slip-resistant boots.
Falls can cause serious head and body injuries. Don’t forget heavy socks!
Remove wet clothing immediately.
Wet clothes will make you feel colder and raise your risk for loss of body heat.
Shovel smarter, not harder
Believe it or not, but there’s technique involved in snow shoveling that will reduce your risk for injury.
Push the snow with your shovel and walk it to a snowbank; don’t lift.
If you must lift, lift using your legs, and keep your back straight. Toss the snow to the side, never over your shoulder.
Use a snow shovel with a curved handle.
Ergonomically speaking, curved handles reduce the load on your lower back and require less bending on your part.
Keep up with the storm.
It’s easier to push only an inch or two of snow rather than several. The more snow on the ground, the heavier and harder to shovel it becomes. Consider going out frequently throughout the course of the snowstorm to stay ahead of the game.
Understand your limits
Snow shoveling is hard work. It carries risks for serious physical injuries including slipped discs, concussions, and even heart attacks. Know the warning signs of frostbite and hypothermia, and check in with yourself often.
Stretch and loosen your muscles before heading out.
Focus on your arms, back, and legs.
Don’t rush yourself and take breaks.
This is aerobic exercise, after all. Take frequent breaks when you need them and stay hydrated.
Always speak with your doctor if you have a medical condition or concerns about potential health and safety hazards.
If you’re feeling up to it, consider shoveling snow for any neighbors who you know may appreciate a helping hand.
Sometimes the best decision we can make during dangerous winter weather is to avoid driving altogether, but this often isn’t an option for DSPs due to the nature of their work. When driving becomes necessary, we must take proper precautions before hitting the road so we can safely reach our destinations.
Plan your trip
If you’re headed somewhere unfamiliar, check out your route ahead of time. Utilize resources like Google Maps, Waze, or 511PA to check for road closures and conditions; inclement weather warnings or advisories; and accidents or other roadway incidents.
511PA offers real-time monitoring of all major roadways in Pennsylvania including PennDOT plow truck tracking and access to traffic cameras. This information allows for safer trip planning so you can avoid roads that haven’t been plowed or are experiencing delays.
Don’t forget to extend your estimated arrival time by at least 15 minutes to account for road or traffic conditions.
Prepare your vehicle
Don’t be caught off-guard. Ensure your vehicle is road-ready before embarking on any trip.
Remove all snow or ice off of the vehicle before driving.
We’ve all cleaned off just enough to see out of the front windshield at least once, but snow or ice falling off your vehicle while on the road is hazardous to other drivers while remaining dangerous for you due to lower visibility.
Check windshield wiper fluid levels and blade conditions; tire treads and pressure; and exterior light and climate control functionality.
Keep your gas tank full!
Your fuel lines can freeze if your tank is half-full or lower, but it’s more important to have enough fuel to comfortably reach your destination and keep your car’s heat running in the event of a break down.
Keep a winter vehicle emergency kit.
Things happen, and we must be prepared for the worst. Some good items to keep in your emergency kit include:
- A first-aid kit
- Jumper cables
- A snow brush and ice scraper
- Blankets, mittens, socks, scarves, and hats
- A flashlight (with extra batteries or use a hand-crank flashlight)
- A small or collapsible snow shovel
- Water bottles and non-perishable snacks
Proper vehicle maintenance will keep you and your passengers safer on the road. Be sure to stay updated with regular vehicle inspections, oil changes, and tire rotations.
While drivers would do well to drive safely during all seasons, it’s even more imperative during the winter. Snowy or icy conditions make for dangerous driving environments, so keep this in mind when you plan trips.
Wear a seatbelt and put away your cell phone.
If you use your phone as a GPS, ensure it is tightly fit into a mount secured to your vehicle.
Turn on your headlights.
Your headlights will help other drivers see you more clearly in low-visibility conditions.
Do not engage cruise control when roads are snowy, icy, or wet to maintain control of acceleration and deceleration.
Keep your distance.
Following distance should be increased to eight to 10 seconds—or double the length of your vehicle—so you have enough time to stop or brake safely. Stay behind snow plow trucks as conditions ahead of them will be worse.
Remain calm at all times.
Sometimes we find ourselves in sticky situations while behind the wheel. Staying calm can help you more effectively manage dangerous road or vehicle conditions.
Check out this video—courtesy of New York State Department of Motor Vehicles—to learn how to safely navigate a sliding situation.
Colder weather means the risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is especially high. As hospital ICUs around the nation quickly reach capacity and supplies for treating patients run out, it’s critical that we continue to follow health and safety guidelines to reduce our chances of becoming sick:
- Limit public outings when possible.
- Social distance and avoid crowded spaces.
- Wear a mask at all times—indoors and outdoors—and avoid environments that would require the removal of a mask, like restaurants.
- Regularly wash your hands.