Winter deaths and serious injuries due to accidents are not inevitable, says Tom Mullarkey, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).
With a massive focus nationally on excess winter deaths and on ensuring that hospitals can cope with increased demand, Mr Mullarkey is urging people to consider the steps they can take to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and out of A&E.
RoSPA has a Winter Safety hub – at www.rospa.com/wintersafety/ – which is packed with information about staying safe this winter, including on the roads, at home, at work and at leisure. Among the many areas covered are winter driving, clearing ice and snow from pavements and business premises, slips, trips and falls, carbon monoxide and frozen water.
Winter-related injury statistics from the past year give a snapshot of some of the safety issues associated with the season:
In 2012, 38 people were killed, 544 were seriously injured and 4,584 were slightly injured in reported accidents on Great Britain’s roads when there was snow or ice on the road surface (source: Department for Transport)
In 2012/13, there were 7,031 admissions to hospitals in England as a result of people falling over on snow or ice (source: Health and Social Care Information Centre)
In 2012, 10 people died in England and Wales and two in Scotland as a result of falling over on snow or ice (sources: Office for National Statistics; General Register Office for Scotland).
Tom Mullarkey, RoSPA chief executive, said: “Life should be as safe as necessary, not as safe as possible, and we encourage everyone, particularly children, to get out and about to enjoy wintry weather when it comes our way. These can be fun, memorable times in our lives and the need to keep safe doesn’t need to inhibit that joie de vivre – it just alerts us to the need to think through our plans more carefully.
“In winter, three issues really grab my attention. The first is that some people use a spurious fear of litigation to avoid doing their duty as citizens of clearing the footpaths around their businesses and homes. We should all try to be a bit more public spirited and get out there with a shovel. The second is that the number of older people who end up in A&E after a fall on ice and snow is so easily reduced by them wearing proper footwear or better still, pavement crampons, and by using a walking pole. Clear footpaths would be a big help here too. And the third is that we often hear about people dying because they try to rescue a dog which has gone through the ice. Keeping the dog on its lead and realising that the dog is much more likely to get out alive than the owner, is the key to education here. Acting on issues like these will mean that more of us are alive and well when the spring comes.”
Among RoSPA’s advice is an appeal for people to look out for those in their community who may need extra help during wintry weather, for example older people, disabled people and new mums. There’s also an “Ice and snow? Take it slow!” advice section for older people on how to avoid slips and falls, plus information for employers on managing safety during the winter, including the safety of those who drive for work. And there are plenty of links to other sources of help and information, including the Get Ready for Winter campaign, hosted by the Met Office, and the Scottish Government’s Ready for Winter campaign.
On December 1, it was 97 years to the day since a meeting that led to the creation of RoSPA in its earliest form. On December 1, 1916, at London’s Caxton Hall, a meeting was held to discuss an “alarming increase in traffic accidents, and the direct connection therewith of the restricted street lighting which had been necessitated by the War conditions”, and it was from this event that the London “Safety First” Council was born. You can read about how this organisation grew to become RoSPA at www.rospa.com/about/history/.