University of Vermont

Physician Careers

Fortune Shares Tips for Ensuring Winter Safety

Winter skier

In the Northeast, winter is associated with snow – citizens expect it, most appreciate it, and it plays a critical role in the economy of many states like Vermont. However, snow – and winter’s cold temperatures – is also associated with injuries. According to the 2009 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 16,500 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries that happened while shoveling or removing ice and snow manually and more than 6,000 people using snowblowers sustained injuries.

The following blog post, written by John B. Fortune, M.D., University of Vermont associate professor of surgery and the medical director of the Vermont Regional Trauma Center at Fletcher Allen, first appeared on the Fletcher Allen “Health Care Blog.”

The mountain tops to the east and west are covered with a beautiful white frosting of snow. This certainly reminds us of why we love living in Vermont! But it won’t be too long before we will be replacing our admiration of the winter wonderland with the dread of going outside into all of that darned snow and ice.

As a trauma team member at Fletcher Allen, I would be remiss if I didn’t pass along some pointers that will help community members get through the winter season safely:

  • On the slopes, wear protective gear including helmets and ski or ride within the limits of your ability … and watch out for the other guy!
  • Drive cautiously in the winter weather. Braking distances are incredibly long on ice and snow and the objects that you might hit are just as solid and immovable as they are in the summer.
  • Keep your sidewalks and driveways clear of ice. A bag of de-icing material (salt or calcium chloride) next to your door is indispensable when the walkway is slippery. Spread a few handfuls out before walking on icy surfaces and wear solid shoes or boots.
  • Be careful of those snow blowers! Please remember not to put your hand down the exhaust chute to clear out the clogs. Those little spinning blades down there can’t distinguish between snow, ice and fingers.
  • Wear reflective clothing if you walk, run, or jog on the roadways. The snow banks created by the plows reduce driver’s visibility and ability to avoid you if you catch them by surprise.
  • If you happen to rev up your snowmobile, consider sticking to the marked trails. While a snow-covered field or path in the woods may look tempting, ruts, ravines and chain gates can sometimes ruin your fun.

Fortune is a board-certified trauma and critical care surgeon.