Slips and falls can happen so fast, especially outside in snowy or icy conditions.

Of course, there are no guarantees against the occasional accident, but taking a few simple precautions could cut the chances of taking a tumble while outdoors this winter.

It doesn’t matter if you’re outside for fun or you need to clear the sidewalk of snow, it’s important to be prepared for the elements.

Keeping sidewalks, driveways, walkways and steps in good repair throughout the year is one of the easiest ways to protect against falls outside. In the winter, it makes the process of clearing snow and ice easier and safer.

When the time comes to shovel snow and ice, try not to wait until it piles up.

Clear your stairs, driveway and sidewalks as needed to reduce the risk of falling. When you’re shoveling, push loads when you can. If you must lift some piles, keep them light. Work at a steady, even pace and avoid over exerting yourself.

While walking through snowy or icy areas, take shorter steps and move at a slower pace to give yourself time to react if you lose your balance.

Proper footwear also can help prevent falls. Specifically, waterproof boots and shoes with deep treads can provide excellent traction. For an added layer of protection, sprinkle cat litter or sand on icy patches.

Other general tips for staying safe while outdoors in the winter include dressing in lightweight, loose-fitting layers of clothing – rather than a single heavy layer – along with hats, scarves and mittens.

Be aware of the weather, too, including the wind chill, before heading outside.

If you’re planning to enjoy some winter outdoor activities, use the buddy system and take a friend with you. Whether you’re working or outside having fun, make sure you have a cell phone.

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