Monday, 20 December 2010

Members of the public clearing snow

Following on from a scrutiny panel where a number of councillors including me argued that the Council should provide some advice to members of the public wanting to clear snow, it can be found on the Reading Council website here. I have also copied and pasted it below.

"Take responsibility for snow clearance from your pathway

Be community spirited. There is no law preventing members of the public from clearing the snow and ice on the pavement outside their properties, or pathways to their property or public spaces. Provided they act reasonably and carefully, and use ordinary commons sense, it is very unlikely that a member of the public would face any legal liability. People who walk in these areas have responsibilities to be careful themselves. National guidance on this matter is expected shortly.

If you decide to clear snow or ice then follow these tips:
· Do not use hot water. This will melt the snow, but may replace it with black ice, increasing the risk of injury
· Do not take unnecessary risks in the road; motor traffic will find it difficult to stop quickly in icy conditions
· Choose suitable clothing for the task. In particular, ensure you have sturdy footwear to provide a good grip. Wear a high-visibility jacket if you have one
· If shovelling snow, consider where you are going to put it, so that it does not block people's paths or simply shift the problem elsewhere
· Use a shovel with the widest blade available
· Make a line down the middle of the area to be cleared first, so you have a safe surface to walk on. Then you can simply shovel the snow from the centre to the sides
· Spread some salt on the area you have cleared to prevent any ice forming. If there is no salt bin nearby, ordinary table salt will work, but avoid spreading it on plants or grass. Remember, that the salt in salting bins will be needed for keeping vehicles moving too
· A few grams of salt (a couple of tablespoons, say) for each square metre you clear should be enough. Remember it will take a little while to work
· Use the sun to your advantage. Simply removing the top layer of snow will allow the sun to melt any ice beneath; however you will need to cover any ice with salt to stop it refreezing overnight.

There is plenty of case law about the responsibility of the highway authority with respect to snow, ice and gritting but none which deals with ordinary members of the public. The position of an ordinary person who clears snow from outside their own or someone else's property is that they would only be liable for an accident if (a) their efforts actually made the pavement less safe than it was with the snow and ice undisturbed (b) they should have foreseen the likelihood of someone being injured as a result (c) someone actually gets injured (d) the injury is the result of their efforts and (e) the person injured decides to sue them. In most cases people will be improving the situation in which case no liability should arise. There is a theoretical possibility of liability arising if a person cleared an area by moving a lot of snow somewhere else, which caused an accident, or if they cleared snow which wasn't slippery, and left a wet area which iced up and became slippery."

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