With snow and ice harshly affecting the UK in recent years it may well have caused you significant problems, both while driving and when on foot. But with so many falsehoods relating to who is liable for any slips, falls or accidents people are often reluctant to make any effort at all to clear a problem on or arround there land or property in the beleif that they will then become liable for any accidents if they do not clear it sufficently. This falsehood only leads to further problems and disruption for anybody trying to go about there normal day to day lives during adverse conditions.
We have broken this down to 3 categories for ease:
1. Land/Property owned or controlled by a Local Authority or Highways Agency.
2. Land/Property which is privately owned or occupied.
3. Land/Property which is a business or work place (including Schools).
The Local Authority or Highways Authority has a duty to repair and maintain the highway (Section 41 of the Highways Act 1980). The Local Authority or Highways Authority has duties under the Highways Act 1980 (Section 41(a)) as amended by the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 in respect of snow and ice. The duty with regard to snow and ice is to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable, that safe passage along the highway is not endangered by snow and ice. This is not an absolute duty. "Reasonably practicable" and "endangered" are open to interpretation on the facts of each case. The Highways Authority or Highways Agency will have to show that they have taken reasonable steps to discharge their duty and if for example they have a winter maintenance plan in place and this is followed this will generally be enough to discharge their duty.
On a rural road used mainly by tractors it would probably be considered reasonable for the Council not to grit. However, on a busy motorway it would be considered reasonable to grit. The Council does not have to grit all of the highways in their area, nor do they have to have someone on duty all of the time to try and clear the snow and ice. Much will depend on resources and availability of employees to carry out any work. The test will be one of what is "reasonably practicable".
Where land is privately owned or is occupied, you owe visitors a duty of care under the Occupiers Liability Act to take reasonable care that they are safe. This duty means that homeowners / occupiers have to take such care to see that visitors will be reasonably safe in using the premises for the purposes for which they were invited or permitted by the occupier to be there.
So if you know there will be a milkman or postman delivering to your property and it is slippery you must take reasonable steps to clear and grit if necessary. If necessary you should put up warning notices. This is a different duty and a different standard from the Highways Act 1980. Each case will turn on its own facts.
There is a misconception (almost an urban myth these days) that an occupier cannot be held liable for failure to clear snow/ice but CAN be held liable once an attempt at clearance has been made. The position is that the occupier of a premises can be held liable for “failing to act reasonably” in order to prevent accidents. We at Gateshead Lawnmower Centre would recommend that if you are concerned about your rights and responsibilities to read the latest article from the Governments Direct Gov Website >here<
The important thing is to ensure that you are clearing snow or ice from your property only. If you clear ice or snow from the highway then this is risky from a legal point of view as you may be held liable for any accident as a result. You should not sweep snow onto a public pavement or property as it is a public nuisance to block the pavement.
Where the land in question is for a business or work place additional obligations arise under the Health & Safety Regulations.
A business that invites customers to use its facilities (whether inside or outside) has a duty to ensure their safety. Car parks and walkways to the business need to be “reasonably” free of ice and snow.
It is the duty of the supermarket shop or business to grit the area, remove snow and ensure the safety of customers. If they fail to do so then they may be liable if there is an accident.
Schools will have to consider their responsibilities under the Occupiers Liability Act to ensure that they take such care as is reasonable in all the circumstances for the safety of their visitors. Schools are work places and are governed in addition to the Occupiers Liability Act by the Work Place Regulations.
The duty of care is a duty to take such care as is in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that the visitor will be reasonably safe in using the premises for the purposes for which is invited or permitted by the occupier to be there.
The approved Code of Practice which supports the Work Place (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations state that “arrangements should be made to minimise risk from snow and ice. This may involve gritting, snow clearing and closing some routes…”.
Heads of School are responsible for ensuring that the means of access to the school is safe both for employees and visitors and that adequate arrangements are made to ensure that the risks from snow and ice are minimised. All reasonable efforts should be made to ensure that the school remains open as normal but if the Head or Governing body considers that this is not safe or presents a risk then the school will close.
When giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we highly recommend that professional advice be sought. This news story comes from publicly available sources.