Staying on Your Feet Can Save Your Life

If you live in a cold climate – and even if you don’t – slips and falls are a fact of life. Rare is the resident of Pennsylvania, Minnesota, or the higher elevations of Utah who hasn’t gone sprawling on an icy porch or sleet-covered driveway. Accidental injuries – which include injuries from unexpected falls – are the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the most recent government statistics. They’re a leading cause of hip fractures among the elderly, an injury that can substantially increase their risk of death. Clearly, staying upright is serious business.

What can Pennsylvanians do to avoid the risk of slipping and falling and thereby incurring an injury? One of the most significant factors that the Occupational Safety Hazard Administration (OSHA) considers when it comes to workplace safety is traction, that is, the amount of friction between the walking surface and the shoe.  So the more friction between your footwear and your walking surface, the less likely the possibility of slipping and falling. Nonskid soles, especially with treads and cleats, help to increase friction, as do skid-resistant surfaces such as mats, rubberized covers, and rugs that stay in place.

Everyone gets distracted at one time or another and even a young, physically fit person can be taken down by an unexpected obstacle. To decrease your risk of a slip and fall in the home, make sure your floor is free of hazards. Clean up spills right away. Keep cords and wires where they won’t be in the path of foot traffic. Make sure rugs, carpets, and floorboards are secure. Keep your living spaces well lit. Use rubber mats and grip bars in baths and showers. Keep shelved items within reach and use reaching devices and stepstools to access high places.

You’ll also decrease your risk of an injury by staying physically fit; improve your balance by strengthening the muscles in your midsection. If you know how to fall, you’re also less likely to experience a serious injury. The more of your body that makes contact with the floor, the more the force of impact will be distributed, reducing the risk of a severe injury.

Outside, similar rules apply. The more traction your shoes give you, the better your chances of avoiding a slip and potentially dangerous fall. When it comes to ice and snow, of course, Pennsylvania residents know that they can’t be too careful: Icy and snow-covered surfaces pose the biggest hazards. Use handrails, de-ice outdoor surfaces as quickly as possible, and take small steps. These tips may seem like common sense, but when it comes to accidents in the home, even small measures can save your life.

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