Many accidents occurring in the home happen around winter time, where harsh and changing conditions make for a more hazardous living space. To reduce your chance of accidents happening around the home this winter, you can take a few practical steps to reduce your liability and the chances that anybody will be spending the holidays on crutches.

Home Hazard 1: Debris and Clutter

Cluttered walkways, debris, and ice and snow all make for tripping hazards. Things like electrical cords to outdoor decorations become invisible under a pile of snow, and prevent a tripping hazard. It’s a good idea to clear all of your walkways of all leaves and debris after the trees have dropped most of their leaves and before the first snows begin to fall, before icy conditions make it more difficult or impossible to get them clear.

It’s a good idea to have a snow removal plan in place before you’re ankle-deep. Have de-icer and a sturdy shovel on hand before you need them, and you may even want to consider a heated snow-melting mat in front of doorways.

Home Hazard 2: Holes and Depressions

Autumn is a good time to inspect your yards and walkways for holes and other depressions. Not only do puddles and ice patches form in holes, but they can become impossible to see under a snowfall. It’s very easy to take a misstep and break an ankle in a hole covered by snow. Before it gets too cold, fill in these holes and gaps with a bit of soil or sand that will be ready for grass seed in the spring.

Home Hazard 3: Dark Walkways and Porches

Holiday decorations add some light to a dark yard or doorway, but is there enough light to see all walkways clearly? Patches of black ice can be very difficult to see in dim lighting conditions, and present a slipping hazard. It’s a good idea to get the ladder out before the snow comes and install a motion-activated light outside of your garage to light the path from your car to your door. Remember, shorter days and covering snow may make it impossible to rely on solar-powered lights that line your walkway, so consider bringing in more lighting for the winter months.

Home Hazard 4: Falling Icicles

Getting hit with a falling icicle may sound like a bit in a comedy routine, but people are actually injured this way every year. You should knock all of the icicles down around your gutters, and especially any that are suspended above entryways, walkways, or garages. Icicles can also cause ice damming to form behind them, which poses the risk of damage to your gutters, roofs, and ceilings. Icicles cause melting water to puddle behind them on your roof, which places an undue burden on your weatherproofing and insulation.

By clearing your home of debris and clutter, filling in all holes and depressions, properly lighting walkways, and clearing your home of icicles, you are well on your way to creating a safer home environment for the winter months.