Canada: Ice Safety Tips

Last Updated: February 26 2019
Article by Michael J. Henry

This time of year, people's thoughts turn to such outdoor recreations as ice fishing, pond hockey, snowmobiling and even nice leisurely walks in the fresh air. Often these activities involve traversing upon ice. Wherever possible, you should only travel across icy 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 be aware of 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 the accepted 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 measure is to consider is how many days the lake or pond has been frozen. This is more complicated because one must take the average temperature and 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 what you are traveling on and be very aware of the 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 you 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 with you may fall through the ice.  Make sure you know all the safety precautions and procedures and, if possible, keep safety equipment with you.

When someone falls through the ice, never enter the water to try and help them. There are different procedures to follow, depending on the circumstances, so check out related websites to acquaint yourself with the proper rescue procedures, such as the Canadian Red Cross  (look under Ice Safety). Of course, once the individual is rescued 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, ensuring you learn the proper rescue techniques.

Of course, accidents do happen unfortunately. Should you or a loved one get  injured as a result of an incident on the ice,  consider consulting a personal injury lawyer.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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