Walking safely on ice – think penguin!

Walk like a penguin and you’ll be safer on the ice.
The offbeat advice on walking more safely on ice was given this week by health leaders in a bid to reduce the number of people slipping and falling when temperatures plunge.
NHS Southern Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has warned that treacherous conditions outdoors can lead to falls and serious injuries resulting in A & E attendances rising dramatically each winter.
The golden rule when it is icy underfoot is to go outside only if essential. However, if leaving the house is necessary, it is a good idea to walk like a penguin – a bird that has figured out how to walk safely on ice by keeping its centre of gravity over its front leg.
When walking on snow or ice, it is also sensible to take short steps, even it means walking at a slower pace so that you can react and adjust your balance if there is a change in traction and surfaces become very slippery. Pay close attention to what is underfoot and don’t get distracted. If you wear glasses make sure they are clean. If conditions are especially icy, bend slightly, walk flat-footed with your centre of gravity directly over the feet as much as possible, just like a penguin.  
Wearing flat-soled shoes with good rubber threads is essential outdoors. Before re-entering the home, any excess snow or ice should be kicked off. People are advised to then change into dry shoes and wipe up any wet patches straight away.
Other top tips for walking safely in snow or ice included:

  • Walk on areas that have been treated with salt, grit or ash

  • Hold on to handrails or other stable structures such as fences and walls

  • If you have to walk on the road, walk on the side facing oncoming traffic and close to the curb

  • As vehicles may not be able to stop at traffic lights, don’t cross roads until the traffic has stopped moving

  • Wear reflective gear at night and bright clothing during the day

  • If you fall forward, try to avoid tensing your body and locking your elbows, this can cause fractured wrist bones. Try to relax as you fall, bend or ‘fold your body like a concertina’ to break your fall, slap your palm on the floor and bend your elbow then roll sideways onto your thigh, then hip or shoulder – try to protect your face by turning your head sideways, tucking your chin to your chest.

  • If your feet go out from under you, bend your back and head forward so you won’t slam your head on the footpath.

Another important tip is to carry a mobile phone when you go outside the house, even if walking on paths, steps or driveways on the way to the garden or garage. Being able to call 999 could be a lifeline in the event of a serious fall.
Dr Sheila Newport, Chair of NHS Southern Derbyshire CCG, said:
“Falls are a common but often overlooked cause of injury and sometimes death. Around one in three adults over 65 who live at home will have at least one fall a year, and about half of these will have more frequent falls.
“A fall can have a devastating effect on an older person’s health, confidence, mobility and independence, as well as causing serious injuries like broken bones or head injuries. That’s why I’m urging people to follow our advice on staying safe when walking in ice or snow.”
For lots of sound advice on preventing falls, visit the Age UK falls prevention page or call Age UK Derby and Derbyshire on 01773 768 240.  
NHS Southern Derbyshire CCG represents 57 GP practices and is responsible for the healthcare of 525,000 people. It is one of four clinical commissioning groups in Derbyshire.
Charles Malkin, Communications Officer

Tel: 01246 514971/07825 274111

Email: charles.malkin@gemcsu.nhs.uk

Ref: SD/RHR/490

Published: 25/04/2014