To Grit or Not to Grit?
In an equally snow-bound January 2010, we published a piece on our website prompting landowner clients to think about some of the legal issues around the question "To Grit or Not to Grit?" As we look out of our office windows now at another snowy day, with more ahead later in the week, we thought it might be useful to re-publish that short piece to help guide your thoughts and planning around this issue.
"In light of the recent weather conditions, and the possibility of more on the way, we have been receiving enquiries from some of our clients about their obligations and liabilities with regard to gritting the roads and paths in and around their premises.
There are two main areas of risk for the owner/occupier of land - firstly, a potential exposure to civil claims for personal injury and secondly, the risk of a potential breach of regulations under the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Occupiers Liability Act.
Some of the key points to consider are these:
- Have any specific areas of hazard been drawn to your attention by employees/visitors?
- What is the status of the land concerned? Adopted highway / non-adopted?
- Could the land in question have become a public right of way?
- How can you help to demonstrate that you've taken "reasonable" precautions?
Owners/occupiers of land and employers should, as a general rule, be careful before embarking on a program of gritting paths and roads for which they believe that they may have responsibility, in case by carrying out such work on surfaces that they were not legally obliged to grit, they create a potential exposure to liability where none may have existed before.
Keeping good records of what has been done by way of gritting/snow clearing, and having a documented systematic approach are also important and may prove to be vital evidence in the event of any claim being made against you. The key will always be to demonstrate that you have acted "reasonably" in all the circumstances, and a solid paper trail is the best method of demonstrating this.
You should also bear in mind your position as an employer, and providing proper training to the relevant staff on carrying out any gritting / snow clearing duties could help to protect you against claims both as an employer and a landowner/occupier."
As ever, we would urge you to take advice if you think that any of the issues highlighted in the piece might be relevant or problematic to you. Please contact Caroline Hardcastle (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Andrew Digwood (email@example.com) with any queries.
This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.