9 simple ways to prevent falls outdoor this winter

9 tips from the Canada Safety Council to keep you safe walking outdoors

When the winter air is crisp and the ground is covered with snow, there’s nothing like taking a walk to enjoy the beauty of the season — and walking is one of the best ways to keep fit.

On the other hand, winter can be a challenging time of year to get out and about. Freezing rain, icy surfaces and piles of hard-packed snow pose a hazard for the innocent pedestrian.

A few simple measures can make it safer to walk outdoors in the winter. Removing snow and ice, putting sand or salt on areas where people walk, and wearing the right footwear all make a big difference.

Just one bad fall on ice can have long-term consequences. These include: chronic pain in the affected area; a disabling injury that may mean loss of independence; or fear of another fall, which discourages a healthy, active lifestyle.

  1. Keep entranceways and sidewalks clear of ice and snow. Report hazards on sidewalks or pathways to your landlord or the City.
  2. Contact your local home support agency or other community service organization for help with snow removal, transportation and grocery bus services.
  3. Carry a small bag of grit, sand or non-clumping cat litter in your jacket pocket or handbag, to sprinkle when you encounter  icy sidewalks, steps, bus stops, etc.
  4. Ask a passerby to help you cross an icy surface.
  5. Slow down and think about your next move. Keeping your body as loose as possible, spread your feet to more than a foot apart to provide a base of support. This will help stabilize you as you walk.
  6. Keep your knees loose—let them bend a bit. This will keep your center of gravity lower to the ground, which further stabilizes your body.
  7. Now you’re ready to take a step. Make the step small, placing your whole foot down at once. Then shift your weight very slowly to this foot and bring your other foot to meet it the same way. Keep a wide base of support.
  8. Some people prefer to drag their feet or shuffle them. If this feels better to you, then do so. Just remember to place your whole foot on the ice at once and keep your base of support approximately one foot wide.
  9. Grippers on footwear can help you walk on hard packed snow and ice. 

You can consult our checklist of products that will help you stay mobile outdoors.

Sources: Ottawa Public Health, Niagara Region Public Health. For more safety tips go to https://canadasafetycouncil.org/senior-safety