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snow snakes
MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D., Snow snakes are fine wisps of snow that blow across the roads and parking lots. They are a common cause of slips and falls in the winter here. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Aaron Wainwright)
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Safety Corner: snow snake alert

Posted 1/11/2011   Updated 1/11/2011 Email story   Print story


by Mr. Dan Heald
5th Bomb Wing Ground Safety

1/11/2011 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Caution; the snow snakes are out and are rather vicious.
You are walking across a parking lot and suddenly you slip.  Next you find yourself lying on the ground with hopefully nothing more than some bruised pride. Slips, trips and falls are common in Minot this time of the year.

Snow snakes are those fine wisps of snow that we see blowing across the roads and parking lots. They may look timid enough, until you get bit by one and then you know how unpleasant they can be.

To avoid this unpleasant experience, before heading out the door to challenge the great outdoors, look at what you are going to wear on your feet. The bottoms of your foot wear should have a tread that will grip into the snow; the more aggressive the tread the better the traction. Smooth bottomed shoes like low quarters and flip flops will not grip the snow.  They slide easily, resulting in you lying on the cold, icy ground grumbling about the lack of snow removal.

Some experts predict that half of all slips, trips, and falls could be prevented with proper footwear, especially for outside employees. Limit the load you are carrying so that your view isn't obstructed and maintain three points of contact on stairs or ramps by using a handrail. In addition, watch guests or customers to give them any assistance they might need.

To minimize an attack by a snow snake, take slow, small steps, avoid abrupt movements to maintain your footing and scan ahead of you for potential hazards and make sure your pathway is clear.

Dress for the conditions you are going out in. Expect the parking lots and sidewalks to be slippery. There are accessories you can put over your shoes or boots to provide you better traction on snow and ice. Just remember to take them off once you are inside. If you leave them on and walk across tile or concrete floors it becomes a slipping hazard.

Do not count on that "quick" trip to the shoppette or fitness center being quick or uneventful. While you're a safe driver, it is the other drivers need to worry about. And , if your vehicle gets stuck, are you dressed to be in the cold trying to get your vehicle unstuck?

Finally, exercise regularly to maintain strength, flexibility, and balance.

Clearing sidewalks and driveways of snow and ice is fundamental to keeping your feet under you. After ten years at Minot I know how difficult it can be to keep these areas free of ice and snow. If you get on that snow removal as quickly as possible it will be easier to clear that sidewalk or driveway. If you wait and people are walking or driving on the snow, packing it down it is more difficult to remove and will begin turning to ice. Team up with a friend or neighbor for the snow removal to share the work load and break up the monotony and ice.

The Civil Engineer Squadron here does a great job keeping roads and parking lots cleared of snow and ice, but obviously there are limitations to the their equipment and where they can place the snow as they attempt to keep the base roads drivable. It's up to each of us to take control of our environment to prevent falls, and everyone's assistance is needed; so grab a shovel and lend a hand to prevent snow snake attacks.

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