As winter's chill tightens its grip over much of the nation, many intrepid pool and spa industry professionals continue to work outdoors. As they clear and repair safety covers, effect other types of emergency service and in some cases even continue building pools and spas, it's inevitable: some are going to slip and fall on ice and snow.

It's a common problem many people simply accept as an occupational hazard. What few may realize, however, is just how dangerous slipping and falling can be. According to OSHA, slip/fall accidents are the most common cause of workplace injuries. In the general population, theses common accidents account for approximately a million injuries per year and account for 15 percent of all accidental deaths, according to the CDC.

In addition to slip/fall hazards, cold weather presents other pedestrian hazards, such as falling branches and ice as well as the ever-present danger of out of control cars. With all that chilling information in mind, here at AQUA we thought it timely to share some tips, courtesy of the University of Idaho, about how to avoid slipping and falling on ice and otherwise stay safe when walking outside in the cold.

Be aware of overhead hazards! Falling icicles and chunks of snow pose a serious risk. In extreme cold weather, icicles can build up in size very quickly and are lethal. Their size and dagger-like formation are extremely dangerous for pedestrians. Be aware of what's happening above you, and stay clear from the edges of buildings.

Ice can easily hide under a light dusting of snow. Just because you don't see the ice doesn't mean it's not there.

Get the snow off from the bottom of your footwear when entering buildings.

Select appropriate footwear. Some materials are very slippery on snow and ice (plastic, leather, foam). You'll get superior traction with rubber soles with deep- traction grips.

Don't take shortcuts. Always use sidewalks and the cleared paths in parking lots, avoid walking in the street whenever possible.

Be extremely careful getting out of your vehicle. If possible, swing your legs around and place both feet on the pavement before you attempt to stand. Steady yourself on the door frame until you have gained your balance. Avoid reaching beyond your center of balance to take hold of the door, because this might cause a fall.

Get an earlier start to your destination. It takes more time to navigate winter conditions safely, so it's a good idea to leave a little earlier to get to your destination in time and injury free.

Be aware of surface conditions and slow down; take small steps.

Keep your eyes on your feet. It's especially important to watch your feet on uneven surfaces.

Wear clothing that does not restrict your vision. There's nothing wrong with wearing a mask to stay warm, but be sure to not impair your vision with hoodies, ski masks, scarves, hats, etc. Blocking your field of vision can prevent you from spotting icy conditions that may lead to a fall or prevent you from seeing a car that is spinning out of control.

Avoid sudden movements when stepping onto a hard surface. It's easy for a tile or concrete floor to have slippery puddles during wet weather.

Choose your path carefully and avoid icy conditions whenever possible.

Focus on what you are doing. Walk attentively on hazardous surfaces, take smaller steps or shuffle on ice. This is one time to leave the spring out of your step.

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