How to avoid slipping and being injured on Ice this Winter

Posted by Stevenson Whelton MacDonald & Swan
December 17, 2018

On a typical winter day in Ontario, hospital visits resulting from a slip and fall on ice or snow commonly number in the 100’s.  No one is immune from slipping and falling during the winter months, and if you walk regularly, you’re likely to fall more than once this season. 

About two-thirds of hospital admissions from falls on ice and snow involve injuries to the lower limbs.  Of these, injuries to the knee and lower leg are the most common injuries treated, followed by the ankle and foot, then hip and thigh injuries.  Injuries to the upper limbs are the second most common group of injuries, followed by head and brain injuries, then mid-section injuries including spinal injuries. 

Although most people don’t require hospitalization and are discharged from hospital to recover at home; many slip-and-fall injuries require a significant recovery period until the injured person can return to their normal level of activity, and some people never fully recover from their injury.  So, it’s a good idea to mentally prepare for the inevitable winter conditions that will soon be coming our way in Ontario and take steps to avoid the risk of injury.

Best Strategies to avoid Falling and becoming Injured

  1. Exercise regularly to maintain a good level of fitness and good balance.  This is particularly important for older adults, who are far more likely to fall and become injured. Persons who are more fit are not only less likely to fall, but also less likely to sustain serious injury when they do fall.  Some health professionals suggest warming up your muscles with stretches, squats and lunges before walking, to avoid pulling muscles in your back and legs if you do lose your balance.
  2. Wear proper footwear.  Crampons worn over boots are the most effective footwear for maintaining grip on ice and snow. But in the absence of crampons, look for boots and shoes that have rubber soles and deep treads, which are much less likely to slip.  The most ideal anti-slip boots have a sole that combines rubber with hard crystal-like fibres – these types of boots have been hard to find in the past, but footwear manufacturers appear to have been listening to consumers and it’s hoped that winter boots with effective grip will become more readily available.  (See for tread reviews)
  3. Walk slowly and carefully.  The key is to shorten your stride and set your whole foot down, rather than walking at a fast pace and touching down with just your heel or toe.  On really icy surfaces, the most effective strategy to avoid falling is to shuffle - that is, to simply push your feet along rather than picking them up.
  4. If you find yourself falling, try to absorb some of the shock by crouching and bending your knees.  If possible, try to roll and keep your arms tucked in.   It’s instinctive to extend our arms and legs to protect ourselves to try to stop the fall, but this often results in wrist fractures.  Another good idea is to take a hiking pole or walking stick, which can warn us by identifying surfaces that are icy before we step on them; also, this ‘third leg’ often reduces the likelihood of falling.
  5. Avoid carrying heavy or awkward loads such as heavy shopping bags which can throw off your centre of balance when the roads and sidewalks are slippery.
  6. Focus on where you’re stepping and don’t let yourself be distracted by cell phones, coffee or other potential diversions.
  7. Choose paths that have been cleared. If possible, avoid walking on parking lots and sidewalks that are icy or taking shortcuts over snow piles or other hazards that could cause you to fall.
  8. Use handrails on stairs wherever they’re available.
  9. Wear gloves on cold days. This encourages us to use our arms to help maintain balance as we walk, rather than keeping our hands in our pockets to keep them warm.
Disclaimer: Our blog is intended to inform our existing and prospective clients about topics pertinent to their lives. While our goal is to provide accurate and factual information, this in no way should be taken as legal advice or applied to specific cases. It is in your best interest to contact a licenced and practising lawyer for legal representation, as matters of the law are often complicated and cannot be fully assessed without knowing all of the details of a case.