Outdoor Winter Safety

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

No matter the season, there is always plenty of activities that coincide with the time of year and weather. As winter approaches, family favorites like building a snowman, sledding, and ice skating will be on the rise. Those wanting a little more adventure will take part in snowmobiling or head to the slopes for skiing and snowboarding. Whichever winter activity you enjoy the best, it is important to not lose track of important safety practices.

Check the Weather – The weather can change in the blink of an eye. Always be prepared by checking your local weather report, especially if your winter activity requires travel. Having a disaster preparation kit in your car is also a great practice in case you get stranded. You never know when you or someone else you come across may need it.

Dress Appropriately – Avoid frostbite and hypothermia at all costs by covering up from head to toe. A heavy jacket, scarves, gloves/mittens, hats, snow pants, and warm boots can keep you warm while at play. Keep waterproof in mind when purchasing these items. Staying dry is essential.

Check the Ice – You can’t judge always the strength of ice simply by its appearance. Be sure to test the ice, always make sure you are not alone when participating in activities involving ice, and have a back-up plan in place in case someone falls in the ice (this may include a plastic bottle with 50’ to 70’ of nylon rope attached).

Sledding Safety – Sledding is a favorite activity of many, but tens of thousands individuals visit hospital rooms each year due to sledding incidents, including very serious head injuries. Although sledding seems like harmless fun, making sure to select a safe location is key. Avoid hillsides ending near a street, parking lot, pond, trees, and fence. Also check for other hidden obstacles like bumps, rocks, or poles. Go for snowy hills rather than icy to avoid a rough landing if you fall. It is best to sled during the daytime, but if you chose to go at night be sure the area is well-lit and potential hazards are visible. The best sleds to use are those that can be steered by the rider with brakes to slow them down. After a successful ride down a hill be sure to quickly move out of the way for others that may be following behind you.

Snow Shoveling – Although this may not be the most fun activity, shoveling is definitely a must for those with a lot of snowfall. Shoveling can be great exercise; however, individuals over the age of 40 who are relatively inactive should take it easy and not take on too much at a time without consulting their doctor. Avoid eating and smoking when shoveling. Try pushing the snow forward rather than lifting, but if you have to lift be sure to use your legs.

These safety tips are examples of what children & families learn when they attend a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day®, which are held each year throughout North America. Learn more at www.progressiveag.org