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Walking (Safer) in a Winter Wonderland

Tips for managing snow and ice on pathways for an easier, safer response to winter weather events.

Prevent Slipping

Slips can happen, even with good boots and cleared walkways.  Stay safer with these best practices:

  • Use Three Points of Contact:  To prevent slipping or falling when getting in and out of vehicles, use 3 points of contact with the ground or vehicle–2 hands and 1 foot or 1 hand and 2 feet.  When walking on steps, always use hand railings and plant feet firmly on each step.
  • Choose your Path Wisely:  Use designated walkways instead of shortcuts. Look out for black ice, especially early in the morning, in shady areas, or close to bodies of water.
  • Keep Your Hands Free:  Your chances of getting hurt increase if your hands aren’t free to balance yourself.  Consider using a backpack to keep your hands free.
  • Walk Like a Penguin:  Keep your knees bent and take slow short steps or shuffle to keep yourself on your feet.  Remember to leave early to get to where you’re going safely.  
Shoveling Safety Tips
  1. PREPARE YOUR BODY: Warm up your muscles with gentle stretching and 10 minutes of light exercise, such as walking. 
  2. DRESS WARMLY: Wear several loose layers of warm clothing as well as hats, scarves, boots and gloves.
  3. TAKE IT EASY ON YOURSELF: Pace yourself and take breaks (especially to rehydrate) if winded. Push the snow rather than lifting whenever possible. Using a smaller shovel will make lifting easier on your body.
  4. USE PROPER BODY MECHANICS: Lift with your legs, not your back, to prevent injuries. Do NOT twist at the waist when tossing snow to the side. 
  5. USE PROPER FOOTWEAR AND DEICERS (see other resources on this page)
  6. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY: If you feel muscle pain, take a break and rest your body while warming up. Inform your supervisor. Stay alert for chest pain or pressure which are possible signs of a heart attack and call 911 immediately.

Sources: National Safety Council, UW-Madison (see below)

Poster showing proper techniques and unsafe practices for shoveling

Deicing Solutions for Slippery Pathways

Although salt, deicers, and sand are widely used for reducing icy pathways, each has its limits.  Knowing how and when to best utilize these materials will help prevent unnecessary pollution.  Here are some facts to keep in mind.

Using a homemade brine solution on pavement before a storm can help make snow and ice removal a lot easier.  Read more in this National Geographic article

Salts and deicers stop being effective in melting ice at certain temperatures.  There’s a list of chemicals and their limits in this Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance brochure.

Salt is only effective when the air temperature is warmer than the pavement temperature.

A little salt goes a long way!  Approximately 3 inches between salt crystals is ideal.  Excess salt does not increase effectiveness and only adds to pollution, such as:

  • Permanently changing the chemistry of soil and water, which various life in the Fox Valley–including humans, pets, game fish, and plant life–depend on to survive
  • Soil characteristics change, causing compaction and/or erosion
  • Chemical and structural damages to metals and pavement, such as causing rust on cars and corrosion of pipes.


Excess sand and other abrasives used to increase traction on slippery surfaces can also cause problems, such as clogging of sewer pipes and sedimentation in waterways.

See the following resources for more information:

Salt Awareness Week Video 2021 Series by Wisconsin Salt Wise

Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance Winter Parking Lot and Sidewalk Maintenance 

Milwaukee Riverkeeper – Road Salt in Our Rivers

Finding the Best Footwear for the Weather

Choose boots that will keep your feet warm, dry, and stable in wintry conditions. Here are some resources to get started:

  • Rate My Treads has been testing winter footwear for slip resistance in different winter conditions.See how your boots or cleats/spikes match up, or to shop for a new effective pair.
  • Use ice-grip technology (see Vibram Arctic Grip and Green Diamond) containing rubber soles with binding agents and shavings of fiberglass or quartz.
    • Some brands known for safer soles, such as the kind listed above, are Sperry, Wind River, Merrell, and Hush Puppy.

Melting snow tracked in from boots makes floors indoors as slippery as the ice outside.  Stamp and wipe your feet on the entrance mats each time you enter a building to help keep everyone safe.

Stay Safe This Winter

Report hazardous conditions in “Chat with UWO Police”

You can also see current campus conditions on the Campus News Feed on UWO Mobile!