Monday Medical: Slip and fall injuries
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Spring is coming, but there’s still ice on the ground, which means it’s important to be careful when working and walking outside.
“Slip and fall injuries on ice, sleet or snow are amongst the highest work-related injuries in the winter,” said Melissa McKibben, a nurse practitioner with UCHealth Occupational Medicine Clinic in Steamboat Springs. “In 2014 alone, there were an estimated 4,200 workplace injuries that resulted from ice, sleet or snow that required at least a day out of work. It’s important to consider workplace safety and prevention in winter months, especially in a ski town.”
Whether you’re stepping out of your car, shoveling snow or working outside on a job site, a fall can result in various injuries, from torn ligaments and broken bones to a back or head injury.
Some people are more vulnerable to falls, including those who have fallen before, have poor vision, suffer from a chronic health condition or are older.
To reduce your risk of falling or getting injured in a fall, consider the following tips from McKibben.
Wear proper footwear
Shoes or boots with good traction, along with grippers, such as Yaktrax, are especially important in the winter months and can make a big difference in keeping you upright.
And don’t undermine the importance of your outer layers: a thick, bulky jacket can help cushion a fall.
“Don’t hurry into work if you are late,” McKibben said. “I’d rather have you make it into the door safely than injure yourself.”
Parking lots can be minefields for black ice, so take your time when getting into and out of your car or walking into the office.
Bend slightly at the waist to lower your center of gravity and shuffle with a wider, shorter gait for increased stability.
“Keep your stride shorter,” McKibben said. “I remember being told as a child to walk like a penguin. That may sound silly, but it works.”
Don’t try to carry too much at once, or you might throw off your balance.
Keep ice melt or sand handy
“You can use it if your stairs or entry are icy,” McKibben said.
When walking into work, you can even toss handfuls on the ground in front of you for better traction.
Keep walkways clear
Always make sure that sidewalks and entryways are free of ice and snow.
Talk with a medical professional
If you’re worried about potential falls, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor or physical therapist to assess your risk of falling and help determine ways to prevent falls.
If you start to fall
There may not be much time to react, but shifting your body into a good position can help. When falling backwards, tuck your head forward and extend your arms to try to hit the ground with palms and forearms first. That can help protect your head, wrists and elbows. If you’re falling to the side, try to hit the ground with your forearm, not your hand.
After a fall
Don’t try to get up right away. Even if someone is offering to help, take a moment to lie where you are and assess how you feel. Moving too quickly after a fall can make an injury worse.
If you’re unable to stand, or feel your injury requires immediate medical attention — such as a broken bone or head injury — seek prompt medical attention. But if you feel you can get up, roll to the side and bend your knees, then push up with your arms and legs.
And remember that when the worst happens, help is available.
“Rest assured that if you’re involved in a work-related injury, there are resources here to help you,” McKibben said. “We serve to meet the needs of both the patient and employer and will help you get back on your feet as quickly as possible.”
Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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