Most of the country seems to be in a headlock from Old Man Winter. As the winter drags on for those lucky enough to experience the ice, snow and cold, it is natural to become accustomed to these less than perfect conditions.
Surprisingly, in the rail industry anyway, there are much fewer incidents during a snow or ice storm because we are especially on guard. After the storm blows over and leaves us with the slick conditions, we gradually become more complacent as we get used to the left over snow or ice.
There are a few things we can do to keep our footing. The obvious is to clean up the snow as best we can and spread ice melt along walkways. Some precautions we can take prior to snow covering is to keep debris out of walkways so we are not spraining an ankle on the discarded water bottle or the piece of scrap metal we stepped over all summer.
Traction enhanced foot wear is a great equalizer when trying to navigate icy walkways and toe paths. We can walk a little differently when walking on ice as well. I refer to it as the “penguin” walk. Toes pointed outward slightly and short deliberate steps will help keep your feet down where they belong. Since you now have a vision of a penguin in your head, remember what they look like when they are walking. Let me help, as the feet are being shuffled with the exaggerated Charlie Chaplin swagger, the penguin keeps his wings out away from his body to enhance his balance. If the penguin had pockets, I suppose he would plunge his wings into his pockets to keep them warm. He doesn’t have pockets but we do. For various reasons, we cannot refrain from putting our hands in our pockets, especially in cold weather. Often a slip or trip turns into a fall when the person who slips has his or her hands buried in pockets and the arms are not able to help stabilize us during the sliding, panic dance. Encouraging fellow workers and those for which we are responsible, to keep hands free while walking will prevent an injury.
I have described the humorous penguin’s gate and everyone reading this has had a chuckle over someone doing the aforementioned panic dance during a slip or fall. There is however, no humor in someone getting injured because of a fall. If you can picture a combination of moving rail equipment in close proximity to someone who is slipping or falling, you can also picture the possibility of a tragic outcome.
Remember-toes pointed slightly outward, short deliberate steps and keep your hands out of your pockets.