Winter Maintenance – Gritting and the Law- Reducing the Risk of Slips on Icy surfaces
We begin our assessment of the needs of sites in the winter by taking a look at what responsibilities are asked of our clients; the owners, managers and occupiers of premises…. when should they take responsibility for spreading grit or when should they responsibility be passed to other users of the facility.
The Occupiers Liability Act 1957 covers the duties imposed on “Occupiers” of premises or land – in other words homeowners, property managers and businesses
“The Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 section 2(2) imposes a duty to take such care as in all the circumstances is reasonable to see that visitors are reasonably safe in using the relevant premises for the purposes for which they are invited or permitted by the occupier to be there.”
It follows that this duty extends to ensuring that paths and thoroughfares or other areas on which visitors may walk are clear of potential hazards caused by wintry conditions. This duty is particularly important in the context of accidents occurring in
– Private car parks – Entrances to shops
– Offices – Shops
– Premises and related businesses (local stores and businesses etc)
In the spirit of Sun Tzu (“Know your adversary!”), we researched some of the sites advising people to come forward on a no win no fee basis to claim for slips in icy conditions from the previous winter, there are predictably quite a lot of them…
Solicitor site advising Claimants says
“However please remember the “reasonableness” argument and be aware that every case needs to be assessed on its own individual merits. Any lawyer must assess the type of business or Occupier in question, prevailing weather conditions, steps taken and signage present at the time of any accident.”
Selected Cases offered by Solicitors Websites:
McCondichie v Mains Medical Centre
Defendant was a medical practice. On the 17th February XXxx the Claimant slipped and fell in the car park sustaining injury as she was leaving the premises. Snow had fallen and ice formed on the ground. However the surgery paths had been gritted but the grit did not cover the entire path.
The claim was dismissed as it appeared the Defendant had a reasonable system in place and had implemented this prior to the accident taking place.
D Harvey v XXxxXXxxXX PLC
On the 19th December XXxx the Claimant fell and claimed that this happened as she stepped off the mat inside the Defendant store. It was found that she had not and had in fact fallen outside.
The Judge dismissed the claim on the basis that the Defendant had large mats to absorb water brought into the store on customers shoes and had also placed warning cones in the area.
So it is not all one-way traffic!
We should not be assuming that all cases of liability result in the clumsy or opportunistic claimants always receiving thousands in compensation from those responsible for the property.
The key word is “reasonable”!
If reasonable precautions are taken, the law supports the property and its risk management rather than the claimant.