Wherever you are, the law sets down standards of care in bad weather
For the past few years there has been a major increase in the amount of snow and ice we are getting in the South West and I am sure that this year will not be any different, especially with predictions of an Arctic winter on the horizon.
Unfortunately, while it can look beautiful, snow and ice undoubtedly lead to an increase in people injuring themselves as a result of slipping. It is important people are aware of both their rights to claim compensation as a result of an accident caused by snow and ice and of their obligations as employers and occupiers to try to prevent these accidents from happening.
The highway authority of your local council will be responsible for public highways and pavements. They have a duty to do what they "reasonably" can to keep these areas safe by removing snow and ice to comply with the Highways Act 1980. In practice, they should have a specific policy for managing winter conditions which will detail the gritting of roads, etc, and so long as they can demonstrate that they have such a policy and have adhered to it, it will be extremely difficult to claim compensation for any accident.
Shops, supermarkets, schools, hotels and other such establishments have a slightly different obligation under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957. If you are responsible for such an establishment, you are required to take "reasonable care" to ensure that visitors are "reasonably safe in all the circumstances" when visiting your premises. A common sense approach should be taken to ensure that snow and ice is cleared where possible, that walkways are gritted if bad weather is forecast or areas are cordoned off to prevent access if they cannot be made safe. The victim of a slipping accident in this type of area has a far greater chance of successfully claiming compensation than those slipping in areas maintained by the highway authority if they can show that the occupier didn't meet their duty.
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The final place you are likely to slip and injure yourself is at work. Employers currently have the highest obligation to keep their employees safe. They should ideally ensure that the workplace is free of snow and ice and certainly ensure that it is properly gritted. This includes walkways to entrances, common areas, car parks and delivery areas. Not only do they have a duty to their own staff but also anyone such as a delivery driver who is lawfully on their premises.
Employers should ensure that they have a comprehensive adverse weather policy which sets out the procedures to deal with snow and ice and that this policy is properly complied with. Employees who have slipped on snow and ice at work are the most likely to succeed in a compensation claim if they can demonstrate that a part of their workplace was slippery due to snow and ice.
The Health and Safety Executive have guidance on its website of how best to deal with winter weather and it is important that everyone takes proactive steps to try and reduce the number of accidents caused by slipping on ice. Of course, it is also important to remember the basics – wear practical footwear, take things slowly and be sensible.
Harris Fowler has a team of specialist personal injury solicitors who can advise anyone who has been injured as a result of a slip or fall on snow or ice.
Free and friendly legal advice is available on 0800 213 214 or visit our website www.harrisfowler.co.uk. Harris Fowler is a trading name of Harris Fowler Limited and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority no. 558271.