At this time of year, people’s thoughts turn to such outdoor recreational activities as ice fishing, pond hockey, snowmobiling and even nice leisurely walks in the fresh air. Often these activities involve traversing upon frozen lakes, ponds or rivers. Wherever possible, you should only travel across frozen surfaces in designated areas and make sure to heed all ice safety warnings posted there. Whether or not you’re spending time in designated areas, however, you should always follow some basic ice safety tips.
It’s only safe to walk or play on ice if it is more than five inches thick. Anything less than that is dangerous. Keep in mind that five inches of ice can hold a snowmobile, according to safety experts, while ice needs to be more than eight inches thick to support a regular car or small pick-up truck.
If you’re going to be engaging in any recreational activities on ice, it is recommended that you measure the ice by drilling a hole – with a cordless drill – and using a tape measure to determine its depth. If the ice is less than four inches thick you should stop measuring and leave the ice immediately – and carefully.
Ice should be tested in several locations to make sure that it is of an acceptable thickness throughout the area where you anticipate your activity will take place. This is easy enough for people to follow when playing pond hockey or ice fishing, but it is less practical for individuals going for a walk or snowmobiling across a lake.
Another consideration is how many days the lake or pond has been frozen. This is more complicated because one must know the average temperature for the area and then do some math. Complexities aside, if you are serious about your outdoor activities on ice, such as ice fishing or snowmobiling, experts suggest that you take the time to do the arithmetic to ensure that your lake is frozen throughout.
Avoid traveling on ice at night or when it is snowing. You should have a clear view of your path and take care to monitor the ice surface, should it start to crack. Wet patches are a clear signal that you should not be on the ice. That doesn’t mean you should only avoid the areas that are wet – you should stay away from the entire location because the temperature is not cold enough to sustain proper freezing and ice thickness.
Common sense dictates that one should never go out on the ice alone. Wherever possible you should also wear thermal protection that is buoyant or, at least, a life jacket. Always be conscious of the possibility that you or someone in your group may fall through the ice. Make sure you know all the safety precautions and procedures and, if possible, keep safety equipment close at hand.
When someone falls through the ice, never enter the water to try and help them. Different circumstances and ice conditions require different rescue procedures. Many websites, including the Canadian Red Cross website provide descriptions of proper ice rescue techniques – it’s always a good idea to review them with your group before heading out. Once an individual is rescued, it’s imperative to get them to a warm place and remove their wet clothing.
Outdoor winter activities can be lots of fun if you are a winter person. Being mindful of obvious and less-than-obvious dangers is always necessary. It’s also important to remain fully aware of your surroundings and to make safety a paramount concern, including learning appropriate rescue techniques.
At Howie, Sacks & Henry, LLP we help people who have been injured as a result of negligence and accidents on ice. We can let you know what your rights are and what benefits you might be entitled to claim. If you or a loved one have been injured on a frozen waterway, please contact Michael J. Henry at email@example.com or 416-361-0889.