Snow & Ice- To clear, or not to clear…

Clearing Ice and Snow

According to Direct Gov: There’s no law stopping you from clearing snow and ice on the pavement outside your home or from public spaces. It’s unlikely you’ll be sued or held legally responsible for any injuries on the path if you have cleared it carefully. Follow the snow code when clearing snow and ice safely.  However, insurers do not seem to be taking the same approach…

The following is the advice from the Health and Safety Executive:

“To reduce the risk of slips on ice, frost or snow, you need to assess the risk and put a system in place to manage it.

  1. Identify the outdoor areas used by pedestrians most likely to be affected by ice, for example:- building entrances, car parks, pedestrian walkways, shortcuts, sloped areas and areas constantly in the shade or wet.
  2. Monitor the temperature, as prevention is key. You need to take action whenever freezing temperatures are forecast. The BBC weather, Met Office, and Highways Agency all have forecasting facilities on their websites. There are also ‘smart signs’ on the market, available to buy at low cost, which display warning messages at 5 degrees or below.
  3. If warning cones are used, remember to remove them once the hazard has passed or they will eventually be ignored
  4. Put a procedure in place to prevent an icy surface forming and/or keep pedestrians off the slippery surface.
  • Use grit or similar on areas prone to be slippery in frosty or icy conditions.
  • Consider covering walkways eg by an arbour high enough for people to walk through, or use an insulating material on smaller areas overnight.
  • Divert pedestrians to less slippery walkways and barrier off existing ones.

Gritting – the pros and cons
The most common method used to de-ice floors is gritting as it is relatively cheap, quick to apply and easy to spread. Rock salt (plain and treated) is the most commonly used ‘grit’. It is the substance used on public roads by the Highways Authority.

Salt can stop ice forming and cause existing ice or snow to melt. It is most effective when it is ground down, but this will take far longer on pedestrian areas than on roads.

No tests have been carried out on how much grit to use. As a guide, on roads a rate of approximately 10-15gms/m2 for precautionary salting and 20-40 gms/m2 during ice and snow conditions is recommended.

Gritting should be carried out when frost, ice or snow is forecast or when walkways are likely to be damp or wet and the floor temperatures are at or below freezing. The best times are early in the evening before the frost settles and/ or early in the morning before people arrive. Salt doesn’t work instantly; it needs sufficient time to dissolve into the moisture on the floor. If you grit when it is raining heavily the salt will be washed away, causing a problem if the rain then turns to snow. Compacted snow, which turns to ice, is difficult to treat effectively with grit. Be aware that ‘dawn frost’ can occur on dry surfaces, when early morning dew forms and freezes on impact with the cold surface. It can be difficult to predict when or where this condition will occur.

Rock Salt available through Vital Venues – bulk purchasing discounts and extra discount for Vital Venues members.

Obviously, this is lengthy advice, and does not necessarily address the issue of liability in the event of a fall and subsequent claim.

Peter Lawrence of AON Insurance Ltd advises: “There is no hard and fast rule and salting/ gritting will not avoid a claim. If a Management Committee does clear snow, and salt or grit the area on one occasion there may be an implied duty to do so on future occasions, and failure to do so may result in liability which might not arise otherwise.”

To add to this, the official view of Alliance is: “It is recommended that the Committee do not clear snow away, as once this has been done, the Committee would have to constantly maintain the area.”

Committees will need to arrive at their own decisions in formulating a policy on what is clearly a contentious issue.