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Walking in icy conditions

It is important to recognise the hazards of slippery surfaces. Here are some helpful hints from winter-safety experts that will reduce the risk of falling when slippery conditions exist.

  • Along paths, look for darkened or shiny patches and avoid them. These are ice patches and the most likely spot for walkers to slip.
  • Try to stay on snow, where you can maintain easy traction. If you need to walk off pathways, along grass or even the fringe of a roadway to avoid icy patches, do so, but be very careful if there is any traffic using the roadway
  • Walk with short and relatively quick steps along thin, hard snow or ice. Slips happen when you firmly plant your foot on slippery surfaces. Shorter, quicker steps reduces the leverage that enables slips.
  • Keep your weight leaning slightly forward: You would much rather fall forward than backward.
  • Keep your arms out so that, in case you do fall, you can save you face and head from an unpleasant landing.
  • Watch the ground and, akin to a chess player, try to think a few steps ahead. Look ahead for icy patches and try to plan your next steps so you avoid encountering them or minimize the steps you need to take through them.

Icy waters

Ice-related drownings are entirely and easily preventable. Be very careful around the edges of lakes and ponds because snow can obscure them, and keep your dog on a lead.

Although frozen water can look tempting, there's simply no way of knowing whether it will hold your weight.

Children are among those most at risk because frozen lakes present natural ice skating opportunities. Analysis of a recent 10-year-period shows that 20 people died in the UK after falling through ice into water, and many others had to be rescued and revived.

More than half of the incidents in which someone died involved the attempted rescue of another person or a dog.

In many instances, the dog managed to scramble out to safety when the owner did not.

In addition to keeping dogs on leads, it also makes sense to avoid throwing sticks or balls on to the ice for them to retrieve.

What to do if someone falls through the ice

  • Call the emergency services
  • Do not attempt to go out on to the ice yourself
  • Tell the person to stay still to maintain heat and energy
  • Try finding something which will extend your reach, such as a rope, pole or branch
  • Throw the object out and, once ensuring you are stable on the bank either by lying down or having someone hold on to you, pull them in
  • If you cannot find something to reach with, try finding an object that will float and push that out to them
  • Ensure that you keep off the ice at all times during the rescue, continue to reassure the casualty and keep them talking until help arrives
  • Once the person has been rescued, keep them warm and take them to hospital even if they appear to be unaffected

For more information visit Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

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