What can be done to reduce the risk of a black-ice fall?

Winter weather can make sidewalks, roads and floors slick and dangerous.

Safety first! In order to avoid a slip, trip, or fall from black ice:

  1. Communicate the risk. If there is a risk of slipping due to ice, please locate the appropriate personnel so a warning notification can be posted. A posted notification will not only keep the danger at the forefront of peoples’ consciousness, but it will also warn visitors to the facility of the risk.
  2. Wear a robust tread. Leather-soled or shallow-tread rubber-soled shoes are not enough to reduce the risk of a slip under normal icy conditions, let alone black-ice conditions. Avoid slips by wearing appropriate winter footwear with a friction co-efficient appropriate to the circumstances.
  3. Penguin-walk. Don’t be embarrassed — it’s safety! When walking over icy surfaces, take very small steps in order to maintain balance. Don’t hurry to get to your destination, take your time, and do not put your hands in your pockets. (This increases your risk of broken bones should you fall.) Keep your eyes ahead of you.
  4. Avoid walking on the ice when possible. You or someone you work with may need to walk over an icy patch at some point. Until that moment arrives, try to avoid walking over riskier areas. Use the walkways that were treated, take non-icy routes, and avoid the risk altogether when possible.

While any one of these techniques can help reduce the risk of a slip on black ice, you should try to make use of all of the methods together to minimize risk. Remember that the safest way to avoid slipping on any ice is to avoid walking on it altogether.

Eliseo Anaya is a firefighter in the Fermilab Fire Department.