Helping you stay safe this winter

Tony Nye - OSU Extension

I believe our weather experts should start calling themselves jugglers instead of climatologists.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I think they do a great job — but lately, with the weather, they are doing more juggling than actually predicting what the weather will be.

It goes to show that with all the science and technology there is room for error. It proves that Mother Nature still has the upper hand and we are at her mercy.

No matter what our weather is going to be in the next few hours, days, weeks, it is important to realize it is winter and we are going to have some snow and ice from time to time. Now, as I get older, I find it a little more difficult to navigate when the conditions outside are even a little bit slippery.

When the temperature drops, ice can become a severe problem when working outdoors.

On the farm, water troughs ice over, barn doors freeze shut, and ice glazes over travel paths or equipment stored outside. Icy conditions can cause severe injuries because a slip or slide abruptly causes a loss of balance, which results in a fall, impacting the surface below.

The most common severe injuries occur to the hips, back or head.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014, there were 42,480 workplace slip-and-fall injuries in the workplace, involving ice, sleet or snow that required at least one day away from work to recuperate. This does not include thousands more winter slip-and-fall related injuries that were minor and did not result in lost work time.

Kent McGuire, Agricultural Safety and Health program coordinator at The Ohio State University in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, provides some simple guidelines to reduce the risk of a slip / fall injury from icy conditions:

• Use the proper footwear that can provide some slip resistance and traction.

• Take short steps or shuffle, and try to ensure your torso stays balanced over your feet.

• Keep your hands out of your pockets. You can help break your fall with your hands free if you do start to slip and by placing your arms out to your side can help to maintain your balance.

• Utilize handrails and grab bars, or follow a fence line in an effort to maintain your stability by holding on to a solid object.

• If applying salt to travel paths is not an option, apply sand, gravel, cat litter, floor dry or some abrasive substance to provide a texture for traction.

• Use grassy areas as a secondary travel path. This will provide a course texture to increase traction while walking.

• Take extra precaution around livestock watering areas. Ice can form in these areas by water being splashed or dripped around the perimeter of the tank.

• Minimize distractions to remain alert to icy hazards and avoid carrying bulky items that block your view

• When transitioning from the bright outdoor environment to indoor areas, stop briefly to allow your vision to catch up with the change in lighting, in order to recognize hazards ahead.

Use special care when entering and exiting vehicles or equipment; use the vehicle for support.

• Use 3 points of contact when mounting or dismounting large equipment (1 hand/2 feet) or (2 hands/1 foot). Ensure there is solid footing on the ground before final dismounting.

As well, with the frigid weather coming this Sunday and Monday, it is a reminder this is the time of year when fuel-burning devices are at peak utilization, along with that come the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that can cause sudden illness and death.

The Ohio Department of Commerce, Division of State Fire Marshal, warns of following devices that may produce dangerous levels of CO gas: Fuel fired furnaces (non-electric), gas water heaters, generators, fireplaces and wood stoves, gas stoves, non-electric space heaters ; gas dryers; charcoal grills, lawnmowers, snow blowers, etc., and cars.

Carbon monoxide cannot be detected without a carbon monoxide detector/alarm. It can present like any other illness. Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911 or consult a health care professional.

According to Lisa Pfeifer, OSU Ag Safety and Health Education Coordinator, there are some things you can do to keep you and your loved ones safe:

• Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. Place your detector where it will wake you up if it alarms, such as outside your bedroom. More advanced detectors can tell you the highest level of CO concentration in your home in addition to alarming. Replace your CO detector every five years.

• Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.

• Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors.

• If you smell an odor from your gas refrigerator, have an expert service it.

• When you buy gas equipment, buy only equipment carrying the seal of a national testing agency, such as Underwriters Laboratories.

• Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly.

• Have your chimney checked or cleaned every year.

• Never patch a vent pipe with tape, gum, or something else.

• During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.

• Never use a gas range or oven for heating.

• Never burn charcoal indoors.

• Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors.

• Never use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage. Only use outdoors more than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent.

• When using a generator, use a battery-powered or battery backup CO detector in your home.

Tony Nye is the state coordinator for the Ohio State University Extension Small Farm Program and has been an OSU Extension Educator for agriculture and natural resources for over 30 years, currently serving Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.

Tony Nye

OSU Extension