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You, Snow & The Law – England & Wales

December 21, 2010

What’s the law on snow?  How does “snow law” affect you?  Are you legally under any duties about snow outside your home?

Read on for more ……

Comments are welcomed [comments link below].

Your Home

You have no legal obligation to clear the public footpath or road outside your home.  If you voluntarily clear it make sure you do not obstruct the highway with piles of snow or create a hazard for pedestrians or other road users.  Check your home insurance has a sensible level of public liability cover in any event.

If you own or occupy property you owe visitors [including some trespassers] duties under the Occupiers Liability Acts 1957 and 1984 to take reasonable care to ensure that they are reasonably safe.  If you know the path to your front door is slippery and that the postman, milkman or others are likely to visit you may need to take reasonable steps to clear it and grit it if necessary.  Make sure your household insurance policy has not expired and that it covers Occupier’s Liability.

At Work

Indoor temperatures are set by regulations. The temperature inside the workplace should be a minimum of 16 degrees Centigrade in general.  There is no minimum outdoor working temperature.  If employees are at risk from the cold employers need to consider their obligations to provide safe working conditions including whether there is adequate clothing and shelter to take breaks and refreshment.

An employee’s obligation in general is to come to work.  If you cannot get to work you may not be entitled to be paid for the time off.  If you own a business and decide to close it during the bad weather you may still be obliged to pay your employees.  To avoid potentialy expensive arguments at employment tribunals you should check your contracts and operational policies to ensure you have a clear position on matters of pay, time off and possibly adverse conditions and lost working days.

If your child’s school is closed then under section 57A of the Employment Rights Act 1996 you have a right to “take a reasonable amount of time off during ..  working hours in order to take action which is necessary ….. because of the unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of a dependant“.

On the Street Or Out And About

If you injure yourself such as by slipping on snow or ice or your car is involved in an accident because of icy conditions then you may be able to make a claim.  This could be against your local council if it is the public highway or property of the council like a car park or public open space or council premises.  Claims could be brought under section 41 Highways Act 1980, under the Occupiers’ Liability Acts 1957 or 1984 or in negligence. Claims might also be brought against occupiers of private land and buildings which you visit like shops, offices, shopping centres, car parks and associated paths and land.  If you are the occupier – check your insurance is up to date and covers public and occupiers’ liabilities.

Also consider reading this post:

Can Councils Be Sued For Not Clearing Snow & Ice

Driving

There is a theoretical and probably very small risk that snow on a vehicle roof might constitute a driving hazard if it comes off the vehicle and an accident results – perhaps from obstructing the vision of another road user.  A bogus text message was sent in Humberside that the police were prosecuting drivers with excess vehicle roof snow.

In consequence this advice was issued by Humberside Police:-

Keep your vehicle’s lights, windows and mirrors clean and free from ice and snow, keep your battery fully charged, add anti-freeze to the radiator and winter additive to the windscreen washer bottles, make sure wipers and lights are in good working order and check that tyres have plenty of tread depth and are maintained at the correct pressure. Clear the snow from your vehicle’s roof.

Take into account the fact that it can take ten times longer to stop in icy conditions than on a dry road. Drive slowly, allowing extra room to slow down and stop.

In foggy conditions, drive very slowly using dipped headlights. Use fog-lights if visibility is seriously reduced, but remember to switch them off when visibility improves.

Remember in wet weather, stopping distances will be at least double those required for stopping on dry roads.

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