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Snow code

Last year heavy snowfall took everyone by surprise.  There is little that can be done if the snow falls thick and fast overnight.  Paths became inaccessible because of the compacted snow and ice making them treacherous.

In some countries home owners and shop keepers are encouraged, if not required, to clear the snow and ice from the front of their own properties.  This has the combined effect of clearing the snow over a wide area and allowing safe passage for pedestrians.  The idea may seem a sensible one.  However, over the last few years there has apparently been reluctance in the United Kingdom to clear snow and ice in front of our own properties for fear of being sued by a pedestrian who has fallen and suffered injury.

Concern about this has prompted the government to prepare a “snow code”.  The guidance is to encourage people to keep the pavements and public spaces around their homes clear of snow and ice.

There is no law which stops you from clearing the snow and ice which has accumulated on the pavement outside your home or business.  If a pedestrian suffers an accident it is most unlikely that they would be successful in claiming compensation from you if you have been careful and used common sense to make sure that the area that you are clearing has not been made more dangerous than it was before.

The government website offers the following tips on clearing the snow and ice:

  • Start early – it is much easier to clear fresh, loose snow compared to ice that has been compressed by people walking on it.
  • Do not use hot water – this will melt the snow but may replace it with black ice increasing the risk of injury.
  • Be a good neighbour – some people may be unable to clear snow and ice from paths from their own property.
  • If shovelling snow, think where you are going to put it so that it doesn’t block peoples’ paths or drainage channels.
  • Make a pathway down the middle of the area to be cleared first so that you have a clear surface to walk on.
  • Spreading some salt on the area you have cleared will help stop ice forming – table salt or dishwasher salt will work but avoid spreading on plants or grass as they may be damaged by it.
  • Pay particular care and attention to steps and steep gradients.
  • Use the sun to your advantage – removing the top layer of snow will allow the sun to melt ice beneath; however you will need to cover any ice with salt to stop it re-freezing overnight.
  • If there is no salt available try sand or ash as these are good alternatives.

The Government’s aim is to encourage public spirited individuals to help themselves and others by clearing the pavements and spaces near their own properties of snow and ice.  It is understood that the “snow code” booklet is due to be sent to Councils around the country for distribution to homeowners.

We are happy to advise you if you are facing a claim or indeed if you have been injured by negligence.  Contact Jacqueline Beadle