Winter safety tips from NIOSH

Icy conditions and frigid temperatures require some special precautions. Here are some tips from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to utilize this winter:

Car Safety

  • Never warm up the vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage – warming a car in an attached garage is never safe, even with the garage door open;
  • Check the weather before you go and wait out the storm if necessary;
  • If you become stranded, never leave your car – use light flares and make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked by snow or mud;
  • Have a mechanic check the condition of your vehicle before heading out;
  • On icy roads, don’t use cruise control and increase following distance to 8 to 10 seconds; and
  • Keep your gas tank at least half-full

Snow Safety

When it comes to removing snow, you may want to think twice before picking up that shovel. Hundreds of people die each year in the United States from shoveling snow. Pushing a heavy snow blower also can cause injury.

And, there’s the cold factor. Cold weather can increase heart rate and blood pressure. It can make blood clot more easily and constrict arteries, which decreases blood supply. This is true even in healthy people. Individuals over the age of 40 or who are relatively inactive should be particularly careful.

National Safety Council recommends the following tips to shovel safely:

  • Do not shovel after eating or while smoking
  • Take it slow and stretch out before you begin
  • Shovel only fresh, powdery snow – it’s lighter
  • Push the snow rather than lifting it
  • If you do lift it, use a small shovel or only partially fill the shovel
  • Lift with your legs, not your back
  • Do not work to the point of exhaustion
  • Don’t shovel snow without a doctor’s permission if you have a history of heart disease. If you feel tightness in the chest or dizziness, stop immediately. A clear driveway is not worth your life.

Frostbite and Hypothermia

Depending on where you live, winter sports or working outdoors could put you at risk for frostbite and hypothermia.

Frostbite is the most common injury resulting from exposure to severe cold, and it usually occurs on fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin. Deep frostbite is most serious and can result in amputation. Hypothermia occurs when the body’s temperature drops below 95 degrees and can result in death.

Before venturing outside for work or play, be sure to:

  • Check the temperature and limit your time outdoors if it’s very cold, wet or windy
  • Bundle up in several layers of loose clothing
  • Wear mittens rather than gloves
  • Cover your ears with a warm hat
  • Wear socks that will keep your feet warm and dry
  • Make sure to carry an emergency kit wheel.

For more information, check out the NIOSH website,