As temperatures hit freezing across the UK, venue managers armed with large bags of grit and salt, are clearing paths and making safe their common areas. Whilst such acts of safety are done with the best intentions, the responsibilities and obligations of doing so are far more complicated than you might expect. In truth a simple act of kindness can in fact have detrimental implications if somebody was to slip or fall but failing to act properly can be equally damaging – it is a complicated matter that is best discussed with legal personnel or your insurers.
In an effort to see through the blizzard of red tape, NDML offer the following advice.
Snow & Ice Clearance
Occupiers have a legal duty under The Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 to take reasonable care to see that visitors are reasonably safe whilst using their premises.
This duty can extend to making sure that paths, walkways and other areas are clear of potential hazards caused by wintery conditions.
It’s not always reasonable to clear all of the snow and ice, but there are lots of simple practical steps that occupiers can take to help to ensure that their visitors are reasonably safe.
The general rule is the bigger the shopping area, supermarket or other public place, the more visitors that they can expect, the more steps they might reasonably be expected to take.
Offices and other workplaces
All employers owe a legal duty to make sure that their workplace is reasonably safe.
It may not be reasonable for an employer to remove all of the snow and ice, or to grit the whole car park, but it may, for example, be reasonable for them to grit or clear the main walkways leading from the car park to the office.
The general rule is the bigger the employer the more steps that they might reasonably be expected to take. An employer that does not take reasonable steps may be negligent.
Roads and footpaths
Every highway authority in England has a legal duty to make sure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that your safety using roads and footpaths is not endangered by snow or ice.
This legal obligation is contained in Highways Act 1980. In particular Section 41(1A) and Section 150. Most highway authorities will have their own Highway Network Management Plan.
This should be drawn up in accordance with the Code of Practice for Highway Maintenance Management (the Code of Practice) and will include the measures that they should take in wintery conditions.
Section 13 of the Code of Practice makes 20 recommendations for highway authorities.
The general rule is that the busier the road or footpath the more steps the highway authority might be expected to take to make sure that it remains reasonably safe.