Seasonal and Holiday Safety
Snow and ice will be here soon and while it might be nice to stay indoors where it is warm and dry and watch the snow fall, at some point we all need to get out during the winter months. Whether going to work, class or the grocery store or heading out to sing carols, there are several things you can do to make your winter walking safer.
- Walk like a penguin - keep your stride wide and short. Align your core to keep your center of gravity low and centered over your hips and feet.
- Wear appropriate footwear for the weather and conditions. Winter boots with traction are a good place to start and also help keep your feet warm and dry.
- Add additional traction by using devices that slip over your footwear, such as YakTrax or Korkees. EHS and Risk Management have free devices for faculty and staff.
- Stay on cleared and maintained walkways. Around campus, walk on sidewalks that are heated by the steam tunnels. These paths stay clear through most weather conditions.
- Wipe your feet when entering buildings and remove traction devices. Those first few steps into the building may be slippery from tracked snow and water.
- Use handrails when going up and down stairs.
- Don't multi-task while walking - put the phone away and look where you are going.
- Help your fellow Vandals by scattering sand from the supplied buckets whenever needed, especially if you are the first to arrive in the morning or if weather changes during the day.
Please report any accidents and injuries through the Accident Report Form. If you notice a safety concern, please submit a mobile-friendly Safety Concern Form. For icy conditions that cannot be addressed with some sand from a sand bucket, contact Facilities at 208-885-6246.
U of I Facilities is seeking faculty, staff and student help in reducing slippery, icy areas on campus - by using the "Sand Can" - which means scooping and spreading sand on slippery pavement areas.
A Sand Can is a garbage can or bucket - labeled "SAND" on top - that has sand and a scoop inside. Currently, over 20 sand cans/buckets are located across the Moscow campus - inside or outside building entrances where slick conditions exist.
Every winter, the Facilities Snow and Ice Prevention Team applies hundreds of tons of rock and sand around campus to increase traction. But with changing weather and ground conditions, new slick spots surface quickly. Please help to reduce the chance of a fellow Vandal tripping, slipping or even falling by taking a minute to spread sand on a discovered slick surface.
Scoop, Spread and Shut.
Sand Cans and buckets are for the entire U of I community to use. No technical skill or training is required.
- Take a scoop of sand out of the can or bucket; throw or spread the sand on the slick surface.
- Remember to look out for people around you when applying the sand.
- Return the scoop to the can/bucket and shut the lid when done.
Everyone enjoys the smell of the holidays: fresh-baked cookies, cinnamon and cloves, fresh-cut evergreens and skunk scent and fox urine. At least, those last two is what Christmas will smell like for anyone tempted to cut down a Christmas tree from the University of Idaho's Moscow campus.
Each year, the landscape team at U of I sprays about 100 trees on campus with a natural repellent of skunk scent and fox urine, as well as a sticking agent, to protect them from theft and destruction during the holiday season.
The repellent is fairly innocuous while outdoors in colder temperatures, but if brought into a warm room volatilizes quickly and emits a repugnant odor that will remain in the room and on furniture and carpeting for a long period of time. This material is completely natural and doesn't harm the trees or the environment and stays on the trees for about 4 weeks depending on weather.
Commercial Christmas trees are grown and marketed specifically for the holidays. Permits can also be taken out for cutting your own Christmas trees in our nearby forests. Stealing a landscape evergreen tree that is worth from $500 to $2500 dollars depending on the size, location, and species of tree taken, is a huge loss for the university landscape.
Some signage is posted around campus to deter would-be thieves and inform the public of what is happening, but we do not sign most of the trees that are sprayed. We want to protect our landscape trees from needless destruction and both U of I Security and the Moscow Police Department are informed about this yearly protection program as well. Stealing or vandalizing an evergreen on campus can result in a felony charge.
Anyone with knowledge about campus tree thefts should notify Moscow Police immediately by calling 208-882-2677.
Winter driving calls for special skills and a bit of preparation. Here are some tips that may keep you warm and safe this winter as you travel for work and pleasure.
- Before you travel, make a travel plan for the entire trip. Schedule stops every 2-3 hours, and leave a travel itinerary with someone from your departing location and with someone at your arrival location. Google Maps is a great way of making a trip plan.
- If your route does take you through inclement weather, plan accordingly by extending your travel by a few hours or even an extra day to accommodate.
- Maintain communication with people from your departing location and your arriving location. If plans change, keep them informed.
- Keep your vehicle in the best possible driving condition. This includes good winter weather tires that are properly inflated.
- Check the condition and fit of your chains. If you have never put chains on, practice once before the snowfalls. Use your floor mat to stay dry while kneeling on the ground.
- Make sure your coolant and wiper fluid are rated for sub-freezing temperatures.
- Clean your headlights, brake lights, and turn indicators.
- Don't start driving until the windows are clear and you have good visibility.
- Do not use cruise control on wet, snow-covered, or icy roads.
- Maintain smooth and gentle input on the controls when braking, accelerating, and turning.
- Keep your vehicle fueled, and your phone charged.
- Buckle up! All occupants should be properly secured, including pets and children.
- After you arrived at your destination, call back to your departing location and let those who know you're traveling know that you have arrived safely.
It is a good idea to keep a winter emergency kit in the vehicle. This should include extra gloves, socks, a hat, flashlight and batteries, a blanket, bottled water, non-perishable food items, a pocketknife, first aid kit and a brightly colored scarf to attract attention in case of emergency. You might also keep jumper cables, emergency flares, a small shovel and a small sack of sand or kitty litter for traction if you get stuck.
If something happens and you are stranded or stuck, stay with your vehicle. If you run your car for heat, make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow. Most deaths occur when people leave their vehicle, get lost and freeze.
Most important, check the road and weather reports before your trip. If conditions warrant, delay or cancel your trip until travel conditions improve. Current road conditions nationwide can be found at: fhwa.dot.gov/trafficinfo/.
With the snow season rapidly approaching, it is good to revisit critical parking and plowing protocols during any snow event for the U of I Campus. If all vehicle operators will read and heed these guidelines, the overall safety and efficiency for snow and ice mitigation on our campus will increase.
- Snow and ice removal equipment is emergency equipment and should be treated as such. Whether operating a vehicle or walking on campus, give these pieces of equipment a wide berth. The equipment operators are focused on their snow and ice removal duties and will often have to change directions quickly. Be safe and stay back or take an alternate route to avoid equipment in operation.
- Rock, sand and deicer are spread on streets, walkways and entry/exit points of buildings to provide better traction, but it is impossible to cover every square foot of the campus hardscape with these materials and keep them from being worn off throughout the day. Slick conditions will occur regardless, so it is imperative that proper winter snow tires be on vehicles and that safety footwear is used when walking on campus.
- When arriving on campus, look for parking lots that have already been cleared of snow, and park in those lots first. If you see snow plows in a lot, avoid parking there until the snow plows have finished their work. Parking in a lot being cleared only impedes progress and endangers your safety.
- While winter biking has gained in popularity, please realize that many of the bike parking areas on campus become snow-piling areas in the winter time. This is necessary to keep campus walkways as clear and safe as possible for our pedestrian campus. With that in mind, please refer to APM 40.32.A6 for information on properly securing your bike on campus.
Check out the Parking and Transportation website or call 208-885-6424 for further information concerning vehicle parking (bikes and cars) and other snow clearance information.
Winter break is almost here! Parking regulations during academic breaks are different than when school is in session. Please review enforcement regulations for this winter break:
- Vehicle storage/overnight parking during break is valid only in Silver Lot 25, Purple Lot 2 and Economy Lot 57E. See map.
- No overnight parking is allowed on any campus streets or in other parking lots during break. Vehicles in violation may be cited and/or towed.
- Gold and Vandal Gold parking permit holders working during break may continue to park overnight in Gold lots. In the event of snow, please park only in highlighted portions of select Gold lots.
- Commuter Overnight/Early Morning parking permit holders working during break may continue to park overnight per their permit eligibility. In the event of snow, please park only in highlighted portions of select lots.
- No permit is required for daytime parking in Orange, Red, Blue, Purple or Silver lots during winter break. Overnight parking enforcement is in effect.
- Gold and Green parking lots, meters and all specially marked spaces are enforced as usual.
Yearly winter sand and gravel cleanup starts the week of spring break here at the University of Idaho; this year, that is March 16th – 20th. Generally, Parking and Transportation Services will post all impacted streets the week prior, advising students and staff to move their cars off the streets and into storage lots to allow street cleaning equipment to get to curb lines. No street parking is allowed in these areas until after spring break. Work begins on streets and walkways, and then the Hardscape team will move into parking lots. Meanwhile, the Landscape staff works to move gravel from the turf and into the street for easier collection by the street sweeper.
Anyone noting the street sweeper while driving should pay careful attention to it, as it makes sharp turns as it cleans the streets. Stay safely back and away from it until you are clear to pass, as rock can be thrown by this machine. Landscape staff using blowers and power brooms are using hearing protection, and they may not hear or see pedestrians approaching. Give them a wide berth as well for your safety.
Sand and gravel cleanup continues until all the campus hardscape has been dealt with. This can easily go up to and through commencement, depending on the severity of the previous winter. At the same time, other Facilities staff are working hard to clear the storm drains across campus of rock and debris that has gathered over the winter as well. Every year tons of rock and sand are gathered during cleanup, and much of it is re-used on campus gravel roads or elsewhere where winter rock can be of use again.
Be alert during this time for your own safety.
Weather during the winter and spring months can lead to water damage to buildings and the contents inside. Environmental Health and Safety, Risk and Facilities urge all university locations to inspect property and look for ways to prevent water intrusions and damage. We encourage reporting of large snow loads, frost heaves, cracks or fissures that drain snow melt into unwanted areas and freezing of pipes. If you notice any of these issues on the Moscow campus, please report your concerns immediately to Facilities 208-885-6246 so that we can work to prevent loss of infrastructure and resources in a timely manner. A water leak is an emergency – do not rely on voicemail. Outside of regular working hours, contact Security 208-885-7054. If a loss occurs, contact Risk 208-885-7177 immediately so an adjustor can be assigned.
What to watch for and report:
- Building exteriors: signs of heavy snow load or ice damming. Make sure drains are free of snow/ice and operable.
- Building interiors: signs of sagging ceiling components, doors and windows that do not open or close properly, wet carpet or stained ceiling tiles, cracks in walls or masonry and leaks.
- Noise: popping, cracking or creaking noises can indicate imminent trouble, such as structural collapse.
What you can do to help:
- Anticipate and take steps to prevent water from entering unwanted areas.
- Elevate contents (e.g., records, equipment) that may be subject to backup of drains or water from other sources.
Concern about indoor exposure to mold has been increasing as the public becomes aware that exposure to mold can cause health effects and symptoms. Reporting water intrusion immediately is extremely important because water should be dried out within 48 hours to prevent mold growth. If you have inquiries about ways to help prevent water intrusions and damage, contact EHS at 208-885-6524.
It's officially spring, and time to think about putting winter safety gear aside for another season. If you use studded snow tires, remember that the last day for using these tires in Idaho is April 30th. Even if it is still a legal time to use them, the metal cleats embedded in the tread can cause unnecessary wear on bare roadways. The Idaho Transportation Department encourages removing studded snow tires when conditions allow, which may be earlier than April 30th.
If you are traveling, it's important to know that studded tire laws vary in neighboring states:
- Montana: Oct. 1 - May 31
- Nevada: Oct. 1 - April 30
- Utah: Oct. 15 - April 15
- Oregon: Nov. 1 - March 31
- Washington: Nov. 1 - April 30 (Extended for 2020!)
- Wyoming: Legal all year
While you're having your studded winter tires removed, it's a great time to have your alignment checked. Proper wheel alignment contributes to better fuel economy, handling and even tire wear.
Every time you start your mower, you are dealing with a dangerous and potentially deadly piece of equipment, both for yourself and others in the area. The leading cause of lawn mower injury is debris, such as rocks and branches, being propelled at high speed from mower blades, as reported in the journal Annals of Emergency Medicine.
OSHA and other lawn maintenance organizations recommend a thorough sweeping of a work area, removing debris and temporary fixtures, such as metal stakes, before performing any landscaping tasks. Specific important precautions include the following:
- Clear the work area before you begin.
- Pick up sticks, bottles, rocks, wires, and other debris before you begin.
- Flag or mark objects that cannot be removed so they are more visible.
- Keep children and bystanders away from the area.
- Wear long pants to protect your legs from debris.
- Wear safety glasses at all times unless you are inside an enclosed cab.
- Workers in the area should wear safety glasses and a face shield when operating string and brush trimmers.
- Shut off equipment when crossing a sidewalk, driveway, or road.
Unfortunately, these simple precautions are often not taken; precautions that may have prevented accidents like these:
- A 30-year-old lawn care worker was killed as a result of being struck by a metal projectile kicked up by a coworker’s lawn mower. The projectile was a piece of a pet tie-out stake that was sheared off and thrown by the lawn mower.
- An 11-year-old lost her foot when the mower she was riding on “just for fun” tipped over with the blade running.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that each year, 800 children are run over by riding mowers or small tractors and more than 600 of those incidents result in amputation; 75 people are killed, and 20,000 injured; one in five deaths involves a child. For children under age 10, the most common cause of major limb loss is lawn mowers.
Keep in mind these safety tips and actions and protect yourself, your loved ones and your neighbors!
Environmental Health & Safety wants you to safely enjoy your barbeque. Please call us at 208-885-6524 before your event for assistance in planning a safe location and meeting other university requirements listed below. At a minimum, we need to know a BBQs taking place on campus. We receive many calls regarding billowing smoke from concerned members of the Vandal community. Bonfires and open burning on campus is prohibited.
The following requirements must be met for every BBQ event on campus:
- BBQs are allowed only when used a minimum of 10 feet from buildings, flammable landscaping or other readily ignitable fuel sources.
- BBQs must be placed on a hard, noncombustible surface (concrete, asphalt, etc.).
- BBQs must always be attended when lit.
- Always keep a fire extinguisher handy. Loaners are available from EHS.
- A metal drip pan is required to be used under the barbecue to catch grease.
- Ensure charcoal remains (for charcoal grills) are completely extinguished when finished.
- Do not dispose of charcoal in university dumpsters, trash containers or on the landscaping.
- Do not dispose of spent fuel canisters in dumpsters or other trash containers.
- Do not bring BBQs into buildings until cooled.
- Propane tanks are not allowed in university buildings.
- Lighter fluid must be properly stored as a flammable liquid.
Outdoor grilling on campus is restricted to university-affiliated departments and recognized student groups. Individuals and unauthorized groups may not conduct grilling on campus, except for tailgating during football games in designated parking lots. If you live on campus, University Housing has guidelines related to university apartments and residence halls; please contact them directly for this information.
We're all familiar with the warnings against feeding animals in our state and national parks. While we don't typically find bears on the Moscow campus, the same constraints apply to the feeding of other animals. Faculty, staff and students are guided by U of I policy (APM 40.22) which notes "Feeding of natural and feral wildlife is prohibited because of ongoing safety and health issues, vermin population increases around campus buildings and damage to landscape plant materials from increased and non-sustainable animal populations."
The science and evidence behind this policy clearly shows this practice is harmful to wildlife populations in the long run. A quick web search on this topic provides numerous informational articles as to why this practice is a bad deal for our wildlife populations here on campus, and in our parks, campgrounds and forests:
- Wildlife fed by humans often become dependent on this unnatural and sporadic food source, and depending on what is being offered to them, it may cause wildlife to suffer nutritionally as well.
- Feeding wildlife also decreases an animal's natural fear of humans and can lead to more aggressive behavior towards humans because of population increases or a reduction in these non-sustainable food sources.
- Feeding of birds and feral cats is especially problematic on our campus because of the increase in other wildlife and rodent populations that eat the same foods as these animals and can lead to increased infestations of mice, rats and insects in buildings and increased amounts of fecal matter and other unsanitary litter around buildings. Also, without regular and thorough cleaning of feeders and food bowls, there is an increased potential of causing a disease outbreak among the various wildlife.
- Currently U of I spends thousands of dollars annually in the mitigation of building pests. Supplying these creatures with a food source near buildings negates mitigation efforts and exacerbates this problem.
- Lastly, a specific issue affecting the U of I campus is the current overpopulation of squirrels having a damaging effect on our iconic Camperdown elms due to the chewing damage they do to these historic trees throughout the year. Twenty years ago, this wasn't much of an issue, but in the last ten years, it has become significant.
The campus landscape plantings provide an ample food supply of nuts, seeds and fruits for our campus wildlife population. Upsetting this balance only causes long term problems for the wildlife and the campus community. Please support a long term sustainable wildlife population on our campus by not feeding them.
U of I Landscaping Staff
Flash floods and rising waters can occur quickly and are not uncommon on the Palouse this time of year. Please be wise about your actions when weather reports predict the possibility of this happening. Warning signs: unusually hard rain over several hours; steady substantial rain over several days; and rains in conjunction with a spring thaw.
Precautions to take: although these seem obvious, they are important!
- Remain aware and monitor local radio, television and go online for up-to-date National Weather Service alerts. If flash floods are possible, move to higher ground.
- Be watchful at bridges and low areas that could have rushing water and over running banks, especially Paradise Creek in Moscow.
- Avoid flood waters and fast moving creeks and rivers. Don't walk or drive into moving water. Just inches of moving water can knock you down. Read more about flood safety.
- Refrain from kayaking, inner tubing or doing any other water activity during flood conditions. Floodwater may be contaminated with oil, gasoline or raw sewage. Floodwater may also be charged with electricity from fallen power lines.
- Almost half of all flash flood deaths happen in vehicles. Moving water is very easy to underestimate. Driving through any sort of moving water can sweep your car right off the road, even in seemingly mild flooding as shallow as a few inches.