It’s that special time of year again in the Northern Hemisphere where mariners can enjoy the thrills and spills of walking on snowy and icy decks.

The falls that can result from slick decks can be more than just embarrassing. They can cause significant to serious injuries, and possibly cause you to go over the side.

Typically, the admonition from shoreside safety managers is to shovel the snow overboard, break up any ice, remove it, and salt or sand the surfaces. This is sensible enough but is much easier said than done. Depending on the amount of snow or ice accumulation, shoveling and ice removal can be extremely labor intensive and time consuming. Minimal manning standards helps makes this chore a big challenge, if not an impossibility, particularly during long bouts of bad winter weather. It affects everything you do on deck and can easily get way ahead of you to the point where a complete manual removal of the snow and ice is just not realistic. You may need a thaw to assist you, and meanwhile the slip-and-fall risks remain.

Preventing the possibility of a slip or fall altogether, particularly while engaged in snow or ice removal activities, is often overlooked. But there are easy, inexpensive ways to address it by using ice and snow cleats worn over your boots.

Carbide cleats have been around in many forms for a long time. While effective, they’re generally a pain to put on, cause deck damage, and can cause sparks that make them unsuitable to use on tank barges.

Depending on the conditions, look instead to Kahtoola MICROspikes or Yaktrax Pro for traction to keep you upright. Each are excellent but perform best in different circumstances. For light snow or icing the Yaktrax Pro shines and does reasonably well in more challenging conditions. But when the ice is really heavy, and your labors are too, nothing beats the mountain goat-like traction of MICROspikes. Having both is best, and they’re much cheaper than a lost-time injury.

Joel Milton works on towing vessels. He can be reached at [email protected].