Winter Safety

Winter can be a challenging season for regular outdoor activities. The lengthiest of New Brunswick’s four seasons presents its own specific set of health and safety hazards that people always need to keep in mind before venturing out into the elements. Freezing rain, hard-packed snow and icy surfaces are common hazards for unsuspecting pedestrians. Just one bad fall can bring lasting long-term consequences.

While the average age of those presenting to Horizon emergency departments with injuries due to a fall is 70 years old, it remains the leading cause of injury among people of all ages. Every year, falls-related injuries cost the New Brunswick health care system about $250 million, representing the largest single contributor to the total cost of injury in the province. In addition, over 1,800 patients seek medical care in Horizon Emergency Departments due to falls each year, with about 70 per cent of these cases resulting in fractures.

Unfortunately, the number of fall-related injuries tend to increase during the winter months. The good news, we can all play a role to help prevent falls. Here are a few simple measures anyone can take to stay upright and reduce the risk of slips, trips or falls due to icy surfaces.

  • Choose the right footwear: Treat your winter footwear as though you were buying a set of winter tires for your vehicle. Just like a tire, it’s all in the tread, and investing in a set boots with a thick, non-slip sole can make all the difference. A great, made-in-Canada resource to help you make an informed decision before purchasing a new pair of boots can be found By following a unique slip resistance testing method, researchers rate countless models of winter boots based on how they perform in real-life conditions.
  • Use walking aids: Walking sticks, ski poles or canes can help enhance your balance while walking in slick conditions. Make sure that you know how to use them properly and that they are the right height for you. You may also consider using ice grippers or snow cleats, which can be adjusted to fit most sizes of winter boot and come equipped with metal teeth that can dig into the ice for extra traction. However, do not forget to remove them prior to going indoors since they are an extreme slip hazard if worn on hard floor surfaces, like tile, ceramic, linoleum, sealed concrete and others.
  • Support yourself adequately: While a slippery sidewalk or parking lot is bad enough, falling down a set of stairs that either hasn’t been shovelled or is coated in ice can increase your risk of serious injury. Take extra care when entering or exiting any vehicle, climbing or descending stairs or entering or leaving buildings. Always use the railing or grab bar in these cases and make sure to take your time to help keep your balance. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
  • Walk like a penguin: This is a tried and tested, but often-overlooked way to make sure you stay on your feet when traversing icy terrain. Think about the way a penguin waddles – short little shuffles, almost rocking gently from side-to-side. That’s what we’re going for. Do make sure to keep your hands out of your pockets to ensure maximum balance, point your feet outward slightly and, most importantly, take your time.

By following these simple safety tips, you can minimize your risk of slips, trips and falls when walking on icy surfaces, regardless of your age. To learn about additional steps older adults should take to help prevent falls, we encourage you to visit For more information and resources about other important winter safety topics, please visit the Trauma NB website at