OMG! It’s health and safety gone, er…, sensible

During last winter’s snow I blogged a few times about the legal scare stories about how people shouldn’t sweep away snow from outside their home (you can be sued! the world will end!), how clearing snow is traditional in Britain (sort of) and how some companies that tell us at great length about how much they care about local communities miss taking the obvious steps to show such care during a snow fall – clearing the snow from outside their premises.

Not to mention the way some journalists who spend their time loving to mock real or imagined nanny state actions suddenly think the state should do everything when it comes to snow clearing.

But this year? Well, it’s all looking rather different.

First up for credit is the government with its wise advice:

If you clear snow and ice yourself, be careful – don’t make the pathways more dangerous by causing them to refreeze. But don’t be put off clearing paths because you’re afraid someone will get injured.

Remember, people walking on snow and ice have responsibility to be careful themselves.

Snow tracksBut it’s not just central government where common sense is breaking out. So too in local government, as in Wandsworth:

Neighbourhood watch co-ordinators [in Wandsworth] are also being offered 50 kilos of salt each for use in their streets, while supplies are also available for churches and other community organisations.

Transport spokesman Ravi Govindia said: “Last year’s snow and ice was the worst for 35 years. Yet many local people felt powerless to clear their own pavements and footpaths because of worries over health and safety rules and the fear of being sued.

“We are positively encouraging people to take action if they feel they can, and to do the same for neighbours if they live next door to someone who is elderly or disabled.

“There’s no law stopping you from clearing snow and ice on the pavement outside your home, and it’s inconceivable that you would be sued or held legally responsible if you have cleared it carefully.

Or in Lancashire:

Lancashire County Council has welcomed new “common sense” advice for residents about clearing snow.

Last winter people worried they could be liable if someone slipped and injured themselves on paths cleared outside their homes.

Now the government has issued a ‘snow code’ which reassures people there’s little chance of them being sued if they act reasonably.

Not to mention Portsmouth and Hampshire:

Portsmouth City Council and Hampshire County Council have confirmed residents can clear paths themselves in a bid to ensure last winter’s chaotic and dangerous conditions aren’t repeated.

The city council has gone as far as issuing advice to the public, which reads: ‘There is no law stopping you from clearing snow and ice on the pavement outside your property, pathways to your property or public spaces. If an accident did happen, it’s highly unlikely you would be sued as long as you are careful, use common sense to make sure that you don’t make the pavement or pathway clearly more dangerous than before, and do not cause an obstruction with shovelled snow on the pavement

And there’s a nice touch of community politics about Sheffield Council too (even if insurance sneaks back into the picture again, but good for the council for saying it’ll cover people):

An army of snow wardens have been trained up by Sheffield Council to help keep the city moving if bad weather strikes.

Sixty volunteers have been equipped with a tonne of grit and a snow clearing kit to clear smaller roads that the council cannot get to.

They volunteered as a result of a consultation carried out by the council following last winter’s heavy snowfall…

Liberal Democrat council leader Paul Scriven said the snow wardens would be covered by the authority’s insurance and could not individually be sued if someone fell on a street that had been cleared…

“These are people who live on some of the side roads and hills of Sheffield that we normally can’t get to who are giving up their time to put in their little bit to ensure they can get on to those main roads and hopefully keep the city moving a little bit better than we did last year.”

It all looks like an outbreak of common sense, proper legal knowledge for once and practical action, even if it hasn’t quite reached Nich Starling’s neighbours yet.

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  • Terry Gilbert 1st Dec '10 - 3:34pm

    Did the school run with a sledge y’day, but two annoying do-gooders had cleared the snow from the path outside their houses, so my five year old had to get off and walk that bit. (You can’t please all the people all the time, Mark!)


  • Heh – strangely enough, while I was removing the snow from my driveway and pavement outside my house yesterday, I was warned by a neighbour that I shouldn’t bother clearing it as I “would get sued if someone slipped on it”

    So… it’s good to know that I’m not at risk of a lawsuit! 🙂

  • Poppie's mum 1st Dec '10 - 3:40pm

    No doubt if such advice had gone out under the previous government they would have been accused of ‘nannying’ us by Coalition supporters.

    Also, is there any evidence that the advice on the website is specific for this year and wasn’t used last year ?

  • Poppie's mum 1st Dec '10 - 3:51pm

    Re-reading the article has made me smile.
    Is the author really so desperate to try and praise the government and all that happens in these times of shiny new politics ?

    Maybe he should come here out to hilly rural Wales, where vital local roads are not being gritted to save a paltry £50,000.

    I’m sure the drivers who’ve risked life and limb [several ending in ditches and one head on into as stone bridge] will be ecstatic to know that they won’t be sued for clearing snow outside of their houses.

  • Poppie’s Mum / leviticus18_23

    Instead of being on here completely negative on a story just indicating that common sense has finally prevailed and being advertised so, you could have been out helping clear up some snow or helping a neighbour.

    Don’t bleet on about “rural Wales” either stopping gritty. It is not possible for ANY Council no matter what colour to blanket cover at county/city. As much as out Labour Council get on my wick, I think they are in a no win situation as some residents would want everywhere gritted but then bemoan if other services would suffer or you would have to pay more.

    Cheer up it’s Christmas (with snow by the looks)

  • David Wright 1st Dec '10 - 6:17pm

    I wondered how long it would take before someone blamed the previous government or the coalition. Answer: Comment #3.

    Presumably it’s all Labour’s/Lib Dems/the Coalition’s fault (chose according to your political bias) that it snowed in the first place?

  • Thanks Mark. A pleasing post… augurs well for putting all those other H&S stories (true or not) to the sword.

  • During last winter’s snow I blogged a few times about the legal scare stories about how people shouldn’t sweep away snow from outside their home (you can be sued! the world will end!)

    If you probably won’t be sued if you clear the snow away, does that not mean that you CAN be sued if you clear the snow away?

    None of those quotes suggested that you are at LESS risk of being sued if you clear snow away, so I am inclined to conclude that you are at MORE risk of being sued if you do the right thing.

  • Sorry Mark this is a poor article.

    There has never been any law against clearing snow/ice from outside a house – any risks would be due to a personal liability claim after an accident and that is a civil action by the person injured. It would also have to prove negligence. This was the case last year as much as this year!

    The HSE provided clarification during last year’s bad weather and this has been supplemented by the latest advice you mention above.

    Why are you claiming this ‘common sense’ has only arrived with this Government? Most of the HSE stories we hear are taken out of context by journalists and newspapers who have an agenda.

    Can you please try and be a little more objective and find something useful to write about rather than this fluff. There is plenty going on at the moment which is far more relevant to the LD party.

    PS Please do not use the phrase ‘common sense’

  • I gritted the pavement to my daughter’s school – our (LD) council had the salt bins nice and full, and I used some for this. A few residents stopped and thank me, and I am sure others will be pleased to find a clear path tomorrow, on their way to school or work. I did 325 metres or so, about 30 houses worth. So, your LD community politicians out there – get going! (and the rest of you, it won’t kill you, and it is good exercise)

  • This is up to local authorities. Nothing to do with government, unless they change the law. The law hasn’t changed in the last year.

    I doubt anyone has been successfully sued. The burden of proof rests with the claimant and would require an independent report obtained on the day (weather conditions change) and/or several witnesses who could verify the actions of the owner made conditions worse i.e. using a hose.

    For decades, councils have allowed certain residents to access local salt/grit boxes. This isn’t news.

  • This is really about Common sense vs the tabloid Media scare stories, the real enemy isn’t a political party or Government, it’s the gutter newspapers who take great delight (it seems) in trying to destroy whatever sense of community spirit this country has left.

  • Poppie's mum 2nd Dec '10 - 2:22pm


    What a charmer you are.

    As a matter of fact, we risked life and limb by travelling a 20 mile round trip on the ilethally icy roads to get a prescription for antibiotics for an elderly neighbour, as well as carting barrel loads of fire wood for several other neighbours so please spare me the lecture on what I could be doing thank you.

    The roads I mentioned in my earlier post used to be gritted, and are vital as they are less steep than the main road which is still dangerous even when gritted. The council has cut gritting them to save money to make sure they can keep paying their senior staff enough money to be able to afford 4×4’s while the rest of the locals struggle to be able to afford cars as buses are non existent, even when the weather is good.

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